Christmas is the time to celebrate old traditions with families and friends. Irish people have a few peculiar Christmas traditions, but our most merrymaking custom evolves around the traditional Irish Christmas dinner.
Christmas gluttony preparations start way early in October. We dare to say that it begins straight after women’s Christmas. But early December is when Irish kitchens begin to smell a lot like Christmas.
Counting how many will show up for the feast and deciding the right turkey size also starts earlier. In that, our traditions mirror other countries. But some traditional dishes add our own stamp on Christmas. So, if you want inspiration to bring an Irish feel to your celebration, here are a few things you can do.
The main event: Christmas dinner
The Traditional Irish Christmas dinner itself isn’t dramatically different from one in North America. On Christmas Day, families gather to carve up turkey and boiled ham served with gravy.
While North Americans would be tucking into mashed potatoes, we would also have roast potatoes and potato gratin. Yes, also. Not instead of. It’s Christmas; we like to live large and have two/three different potato dishes.
Cranberry sauce and sausage stuffing are also on the menu. However, they are much less prominent than in the USA. Brussels sprouts are a popular dish, and carrots too.
The most important part of the Irish Christmas dinner table setting isn’t food at all. It’s Christmas crackers. These tubes wrapped in Christmas paper have a paper crown and a little toy inside. A person pulls each end, and the one who gets the bigger half gets the prize.
Something sweet: Irish Christmas desserts
Once the main meal is over, it’s show time for the real star of the Christmas kitchen: the dessert. While we nibble on mince pies from early December, we tend to save the Christmas cake and pudding for the big day.
Irish Christmas Cake
This rich dark fruit cake is somewhat similar to barmbrack. The recipe takes currants, candied peel, spices, raisins, and sultanas mixed with butter, eggs, brown sugar, and molasses.
This delicacy needs extra time to get ready. So we usually make it at the end of October, wrap, and every so often, we add some brandy or whiskey. This process gives it enough time to settle and mature.
Then leading up to Christmas, we unwrap and finish the cake wrapping it with marzipan and topping it up with royal icing. Apart from adding extra flavor to the cake, the marzipan also prevents moisture from the dark base of the cake dyeing the icing. We use seasonal symbols such as holly, deer, Santa, and more to decorate the cake.
Irish Christmas Pudding
Christmas pudding or “plum pudding” uses the same ingredients as the cake, with the addition of plums or prunes. The cooking method is also different (we steam it instead), resulting in a very different texture.
When it is time to eat, we transfer the pudding to a serving dish, add a drop of brandy atop, and light a flame. Once the alcohol burns out, we serve it warm with custard, brandy butter, or brandy ice cream (our favorite). To decorate, we use Irish Christmas holly.
Irish Sherry Trifle
Sherry Trifle is a lighter option that’s also extremely popular. We make this with strawberry jelly, custard and whipped cream on top. The base takes a sherry-soaked Swiss-roll, which adds the characteristic taste. To decorate, we sometimes add fresh strawberries and sometimes fresh peaches and flaked almonds.
Mince pies are one of the most delicious Irish Christmas delicacies, especially if you like something spice for the season. We think we all do. Irish mince pies are small pastries filled with mincemeat, a mixture of diced dried fruits, sugar, spices, nuts, spirits, and fat.
You can make your mincemeat or buy it ready in jars. Supermarkets all over Ireland sell them, making our cooking a bit faster. As an alternative, we can also buy them read. Then the job is only to warm top it with cream before serving.
The drinks and after-dinner treats
After dinner and dessert, drinks and treats are great options to get warm and cozy while sitting by the fire and watching Christmas movies.
No special Irish meal is special without an Irish coffee to wrap it up, and Christmas is no different. In most Irish households, it is normal to have a glass of Irish coffee after the main event.
The traditional Irish coffee is an invention of Joe Sheridan, a chef at the Foynes Port near Limerick, Ireland. Joe created the drink in 1943, and it has grown in popularity since then.
Other popular and customary options are mulled wine, usually served before dinner, more like a welcome drink, Baileys, hot whiskey, or brandy and port.
After dinner, it is common for us to sit by the fireplace to watch Christmas movies and eat some Irish chocolates. We are fond of boxes of chocolates this time of year. (And if you’ve had Irish chocolate, you understand why.) Cadbury’s Roses, Quality Streets, and Celebrations are the most popular options.
Christmas leftover sandwiches
No matter how much we eat at dinner, we always have room for a Christmas leftover sandwich. Basically, we add whatever’s left from dinner; ham, turkey, cranberry sauce, you name it. That is usually the meal for Saint Stevens’ day. All over the internet, you can find recipes self-proclaiming to be the best sandwich recipe ever.
To sum it up
Like many other countries, most Christmas traditions in Ireland revolve around food and drinks. Our Traditional Irish Christmas dinner would be a roast turkey, different recipes of potatoes, stuffing, Brussels sprouts, gravy, cranberry, and bread sauce. The main star of the party, however, is the traditional Christmas desserts. If you want to add an Irish Flair to your festivities, these Irish foods can be a great helper.
Irish jewelry to spoil your loved ones this Christmas
Christmas is also the time to spoil her with meaningful gifts. Choose sparkly and pretty items that speak to her Irish heritage.