Irish Christmas Traditions
Ireland, like most countries, has a number of Christmas
traditions that are all of its own. Many of these customs
have their root in the time when the Gaelic culture and
religion of the country were being supressed and it is
perhaps because of that they have survived into modern
THE CANDLE IN THE WINDOW
The placing of a lighted candle in the window of a house
on Christmas eve is still practised today. It has a number
of purposes but primarily it was an symbol of welcome to
Mary and Joseph as they travelled looking for shelter.
The candle also indicated a safe place for priests to
perform mass as, during Penal Times this was not allowed.
A further element of the tradition is that the candle should
be lit by the youngest member of the household and only be
extinguished by a girl bearing the name 'Mary'.
THE LADEN TABLE
After evening meal on Christmas eve the kitchen table was
again set and on it were placed a loaf of bread filled with
caraway seeds and raisins, a pitcher of milk and a large
lit candle. The door to the house was left unlatched so that
Mary and Joseph, or any wandering traveller, could avail of
THE WREN BOY PROCESSION
During Penal Times there was once a plot in a vilage against
the local soldiers. They were surrounded and were about to
be ambushed when a group of wrens pecked on their drums and
awakened the soldiers. The plot failed and the wren became
known as 'The Devil's bird'.
On St. Stephens day a procession takes place where a pole
with a holly bush is carried from house to house and
families dress up in old clothes and with blackened faces.
In olden times an actual wren would be killed and placed on
top of the pole.
This custom has to a large degree disappeared but the
tradition of visiting from house to house on St. Stephens
Day has survived and is very much part of Christmas.
The placing of a ring of Holly on doors originated in
Ireland as Holly was one of the main plants that flourished
at Christmas time and which gave the poor ample means with
which to decorate their dwellings.
All decorations are traditionally taken down on Little
Christmas (January 6th.) and it is considered to be bad luck
to take them down beforehand.
TRADITIONAL GAELIC SALUTATION
The Gaelic greeting for 'Merry Christmas' is:
'Nollaig Shona Duit'
......which is pronounced as 'null-ig hun-a dit'.
Irish Christmas Traditions - An article provided by The Information about Ireland Site.
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by Charles E. Seay
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