In Ireland, late fall is the time of the year to make the house ready for the upcoming holiday celebrations. An Irish home is cleaned top to bottom and special holiday linens would be brought out of storage. Olden days in Ireland would see the home being white washed and general repairs to the home. Once all is clean it is ready for festive Christmas decorating.
Irish Celtic Traditions
No Irish home would be complete without the holly. Holly with its glossy green leaves and festive red berries are perfect for the holiday decorating. At Christmas in Ireland, holly was used to decorate the entire house. A spray was placed over the door as well as on the mantle, around picture frames, among the plates on the cupboard, as candle rings and in other areas of the home. Gifts of holly boughs were also given to neighbors. One charming folklore superstition was that the fairy folk would come in out of
the cold to find shelter in the holly branches.
The Christmas cooking would start early with the making of the plum pudding, breads and spiced beef. A traditional Irish Christmas meal might consist of roasted goose, potatoes, cranberry sauce, vegetable, sausages and puddings. Spiced beef is often eaten sliced cold with fresh bread in the days after the main feast.
Hospitality is abundant in Ireland and it is reflected in many holiday customs. A lighted candle would be placed in the window as a welcome beacon for both traveler and wandering priest. The candle is placed in the window on Christmas Eve to signify the welcome to the Holy Family looking for shelter. Anther aspect of Irish hospitality is seen after the Christmas meal. The doors are left unlocked and the table is set with bread and milk for travelers who might come in the night after seeing the welcome of the lighted candle in the window.
The Twelve Days of Christmas
The twelve days of Christmas are celebrated between the birth of Christ, December 25 and the Epiphany (coming of the Magi) January 6. A small gift would be given on each day during this time. The twelve days of Christmas included many festivities including parties and the visiting of friends, family and neighbors. Twelfth night would be the end of the celebrations and the day that holiday decorations were taken down.
An Irish Christmas Blessing
The light of the Christmas star to you
The warmth of home and hearth to you
The cheer and good will of friends to you
The hope of a childlike heart to you
The joy of a thousand angels to you
The love of the Son and God’s peace to you
Your Corres Secretary & Parade Chair, Frank Darcy