With the majority of people being Roman Catholic in Ireland Christmas is mostly a religious time of year for many families. Christmas traditions have been carried through for centuries and are similar to how other countries celebrate this time of year.
Christmas traditions celebrated in Ireland
Most villages, towns and cities decorate the streets with holy symbols, lights and a large Christmas trees, usually located in the heart of the community. Churches build cribs to display the birth of Jesus and the arrival of the 3 Kings which is usually placed in front of the Church property.
Christmas decorations & ornaments in the family home
Most, if not all, Irish families decorate their homes with lights, tinsel and baubles. A Christmas tree is usually erected in the family home on the first day of the holy advent calendar. The tree will be beautifully decorated with an angel on top, presents will lay underneath as seen with many family homes around the world.
A large candle is placed in the front window of the family home, to symbolize guidance for the Virgin Mary and Joseph before the birth of Christ. The symbolic candle is explained to the Children but to add to the atmosphere to the Christmas holiday kids are told it also help Santa find his way to their home.
Many homes will place Christmas ornaments on the fireplace, tables and anywhere else that puts them on display. The ornaments usually consist of angels, elves, snowflakes, Santa’s and anything else that would represent Christmas. There is no special reason behind the display of Christmas ornaments, only that it helps with the atmosphere of such a special holiday. See the list of Irish Christmas decorations if you would like an Irish themed Christmas.
Attending Mass at Christmas
As Ireland is a Christian country the majority of families will attend Christmas mass together. Vigil Mass is usually held at Midnight and involves each member of the congregation lighting a holy candle that has been blessed by the bishop or high priest.
Probably the best time during Christmas for the children is the morning, when they are allowed to open their new presents that arrived from Santa.It also seems to a big competition for Irish children to see who can wake up the earliest to see what gifts Santa has brought them.
The Big Christmas Dinner
The feast of Christmas is celebrated in Ireland with a large meal fit for a king. It is the biggest meal cooked in a family house-hold out of all meals through-out the year. Preparations for Christmas dinner usually start on Christmas Eve with the slow cooking of the turkey and preparation of the vegetables and any other goodies that may come with the large feast. An Irish Christmas dinner consists of turkey, ham, chicken, stuffing, potatoes, Brussels sprouts and various vegetables.
In more modern times Children are given chocolate as a treat after the Christmas dinner that is more commonly known as a Selection Box, a selection of Chocolate bars. Families are strict that everyone must eat their Christmas dinner before receiving their selection box with each member of the family sitting in front of the Television to watch some of the finest Christmas Movies such as “It’s a Wonderful Life”.
St Stephen’s Day Celebrations
St. Stephen Day (also known as Boxing Day) is another important day celebrating Christmas traditions; it is the day after Christmas Day. Most families will treat St. Stephen’s Day as day of rest with a visit to their local church and also celebrate with another large meal. St Stephen’s Day may also bring relations to the house hold to join in on the Christmas Celebrations.