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A Merry Christmas in Cork and saying goodbye to my new home in Ireland

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Patrick Street in Cork at Christmas

There's no time left until Christmas, which means two things:

1. Cork, Ireland, is fully immersed in the holiday season, and the city is more beautiful than ever
2. My time in Ireland is coming to an end

It's definitely going to be hard to say goodbye to my new friends and my new home – but fortunately, with Christmas just around the corner, we have plenty of holiday events to distract us. I've been to four or five Christmas parties in the last week or so. (Granted, it's time for finals at UCC, so you'd think my social life would suffer – but I saw this coming, and accordingly, my papers are all finished. I only have one exam left!)

As a result, we've found plenty of time to head downtown to the Cork Christmas market, purchasing holiday treats and last-minute Christmas presents (my personal favorite item at the market: adorable peanut butter cupcakes with tiny frosted Rudolphs on them. So cute)! We also explored the park, taking pictures on the giant sleigh, by the gingerbread house, and in the grove of candy canes; we admired the mammoth Christmas trees and strung lights gracing St. Patrick's Street; and we indulged in crepes and roasted chestnuts, available from dozens of seasonal street vendors along the Grand Parade.

I swear, Cork was made for Christmastime. Everything looks like something out of a fairy tale.

End-of-semester Society parties have been equally lovely, as we've spent evenings snapping festive Christmas crackers and drinking Irish cider in cozy pubs like An Spailpin Fanach – a place which I highly recommend, as it sports a crackling fire in nearly every room, as well as seasonal decorations. Talk about atmospheric.

Even the nightclubs are getting into the Christmas spirit. I went out last week with some friends, and to my intense amusement, our DJ abandoned the typical Rihanna and LFMAO party rock in favor of, you guessed it: the new pop version of“All I Want For Christmas Is You.” Cue hundreds of Irish college students, clad in reindeer antlers and covered in tinsel, screaming with delight and singing their hearts out on the dance floor – which, by the way, was lit with Christmas lights instead of a disco ball.

Of course, I've also been to more private parties, such as an absolutely hilarious viewing party for Ireland's “Late Late Toy Show.” I should explain that this is an Irish holiday staple, which I've heard about for the last two months from my Irish friends. (“I applied to be on it every year, like. Every single year. Everyone in Ireland dreams about being on this show. It's pure class.”)

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Essentially, it's an annual television special featuring dozens of adorable Irish children, who flaunt every kids' toy on the commercial market; periodically, the host, clad in an obscenely festive jumper, bestows one on everyone in the audience. That summary doesn't really do it justice, though. The kids are hysterical and the toys are bizarre, which means that, if you and your friends have an endless supply of mince pies and mulled wine – as we did – it makes for one of the best Irish evenings you could ask for.

I laughed so hard I could barely breathe. It's a genius show, and we need an American version desperately, in my opinion. It was a very good night.

Still, despite the craic I've been having in these final days, it has definitely been a bittersweet Christmas season. Don't get me wrong, I'm looking forward to Christmas Day in my own home, with my own family – but it feels very odd to be bidding the Emerald Isle farewell. I've made great friends and great memories here, and I hate that the date on my plane ticket is getting closer and closer.

I suppose I'll just have to come back!

Happy Holidays, everyone. May your days be merry and bright, and may the New Year take you wherever you want to go. This last year has certainly been a good one.

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