Winter is not a popular time of year for tourists in Ireland or much of northern Europe. True, it is cold and wet, but Ireland offers a lot of compensation for that. Of course, air fare and hotel rates are usually less, but the real joys of an Irish winter are priceless. With a good rain jacket and trousers and a pair of welly boots, residents and visitors alike can find plenty to enjoy inside and out year round in Ireland. Here are a few things that make winter special here.
- Robin Redbreast: You know it really is winter when this gorgeous creature arrives. The Irish robin is smaller than his American cousin, and is mostly seen in the winter. He’s a popular figure on Christmas cards, and the splash of bright ruby red he adds to the garden on a damp and dull afternoon is greatly appreciated.
- Turf Fires: There is nothing like it, as clichéd as that sounds. Coming home to Ireland, one of the first thing people notice once they are outside of the airport or ferry port is the cozy, welcoming smell of turf smoke drifting out of nearly every chimney. Warning, this smell has been known to have an extreme effect on Irish emigrants visiting home and can cause nostalgia or, in extreme cases, tears.
- Pudding Making: No, this is most certainly not someone opening a packet of power and making the dessert known as ‘pudding’ in North America, not by a long shot. It’s only November, but throughout Ireland Christmas puddings are being made. Grocery store aisles are full of candied fruits and marzipan, and the brandy bottles being cracked open in kitchens nationwide are not being guzzled by desperate housewives. A few sips might be taken, however, as inspiration for the pudding making.
- Crazy Christmas Jumpers: Okay, call them sweaters if you must, but around mid-November when a few early birds have begun their Christmas shopping, the stores begin to fill with wild and whacky Christmas sweaters (Sorry, you can call everything else a sweater, but these are Christmas jumpers!) Santa, Christmas puddings, reindeers and chimneys all feature in the informal national competition to outdo one’s friends with the craziest Christmas jumper.
While some of us are already buying Christmas presents, most of us think this is the perfect weather to make a nice cup of tea and curl up by the fire to start making lists of what to get for our nearest and dearest. It’s going to get crazy soon shopping for toys, jewelry, kitchen gadgets and everything else that can be wrapped, but right now we can enjoy winter from the couch by the fire snuggled up under a throw blanket. If we gaze out the window long enough, we might even see a flash of red as a robin flies by.