By Tammy Trail
I had no idea where in the world I would land for this month’s post Christmas Around the World. I had googled “the coldest place in the world” and learned that Oymyaken, Russia earns that title, but my esteemed blog partner Jennifer had already written about Russia. My mother is visiting from New Mexico. I asked her to pick a place. I should have known her answer. Her father’s family migrated from Ireland to Canada, and later came to settle in Toledo, Ohio.
So, an Irish Christmas it is!
Traditionally, the season begins on December 8. This is when folks begin getting into the spirit of the season by decorating their homes. Evergreen trees are becoming more popular in recent years, but the use of holly and ivy remains the custom for most homes. The more berries on your holly, the better luck in the New Year. Large candles shine in the main window of a family home. This is to guide Mary and Joseph to a safe and friendly place before the Christ child is born.
Some communities host a singalong in middle of the town square. They sing all the traditional hymns and carols to usher in the Christmas season. Doesn’t that sound like fun?
Ireland is a predominately Christian country, and attending midnight Mass begins the festivities that follow on Christmas morning.
Christmas dinner is much the same as our own. After dinner, they eat Christmas pudding or mince pies. You may even receive a “select box” which is filled with a selection of chocolate bars for dessert.
In the city of Dublin at Sandycove, hundreds of brave souls plunge into the cold winter sea for charity. I think we in the United States refer to this as the Polar Plunge. Not my cup of tea at all. I like dry land and warm clothes.
The day after Christmas in Ireland is St. Stephens Day, or Boxing day in Canada and the United Kingdom. It is often celebrated with a good meal, too.
January 6th is the celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany, which some Irish towns call Nollaig na mBean. On a Woman’s Christmas, women of the town are given the day off from their household chores and meal preparation. They celebrate by spending the day with their female friends, visiting and drinking tea. I like this idea. I could use a day to spend with my friends with no demands on my time.
So, Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year from Ireland.