Ireland, like most countries, has a number of Christmas traditions that are all its own. Many of these customs have their root in the time when the Gaelic culture and religion of the country were being suppressed, and it is perhaps because of that they have survived into modern times. We have a look at some of the best traditions that you can bring into your own homes this holiday season.
Here are a couple of the traditions I found interesting:
The candle in the window
The placing of a lighted candle in the window of a house on Christmas Eve is still practiced in Ireland today. It has a number of purposes but primarily, it was a symbol of welcome to Mary and Joseph as they traveled 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,’ if possible.
The Wren Boy procession
During Penal Times, there was once a plot in a village 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.
“Nollaig Shona Duit,” or Merry Christmas in Gaelic!