Christmas is a time when families gather together and celebrate with traditions that have come down through generations. It’s also a time to review those traditions, consider which you really love and which you wouldn’t miss. Each generation adds their own touch and develops their own traditions. While people celebrate the holiday in diverse countries around the world, each culture puts their own stamp on how to celebrate Christmas. Would you like to add a few Irish traditions to your Christmas celebration? Here are a few things you can do to bring an Irish feel to your holidays no matter where you are.
For starters, we are on very friendly terms with everyone’s favorite jolly elf. We aren’t very formal at all. In Ireland, we usually call him Santy. Just like in North America, we bring our children to shopping centers and parties to meet him and hand over their lists. We snap pictures and post them online for our friends to oooh and aaaah over.
When the big man arrives on Christmas Eve, he comes down the chimney to discover treats left out for him. In Ireland, we don’t have American style sugar Christmas cookies. We leave him some little mince pies, which are not made with mince. Mince pies are made with mincemeat, which is not meat at all but chopped dried fruits. (Mince, however, is ground meat. What Americans call ground beef is beef mince here.) Because the reindeer are in charge of driving safely, we might leave Santy a drop of whiskey or stout. We are also likely to leave out a mug with a tea bag knowing that he can’t risk falling asleep on the job.
An Irish Christmas Dinner
The Christmas dinner itself isn’t dramatically different from one in North America. On Christmas Day, families gather to carve up turkey and ham. While North Americans are likely to be tucking into mashed potatoes, in Ireland you would also have roast potatoes. Yes, also. Not instead of. It’s Christmas; we like to live large and have two different potato dishes.
Cranberry sauce and stuffing are on the menu here too, but they are much less important 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 inside.
However popular the dinner is, the real star of the Christmas kitchen is the dessert. While we nibble on mince pies from early December on, we tend to save the Christmas cake and pudding for the big day. Irish Christmas pudding and Christmas cake are actually fairly similar to each other. Each is rich and dark with chopped dried fruits. Both are made well in advance and soaked with whiskey. Trifle is a lighter option that’s also extremely popular here. And as a people, we are rather fond of boxes of chocolates this time of year. (And if you’ve had Irish chocolate, you understand why.)
This is the season for giving, and Irish people like to lavish their loved ones with thoughtful presents. It’s when our sentimental side is on full display. Christmas is a lovely time to give your daughter her first birthstone ring or your mother a stunning pendent with all of her children’s birthstones or your husband a Claddagh ring. And we’re also pretty romantic at Christmas. It’s a popular time to propose or to give a dazzling piece of Celtic jewelry for Christmas.