The top ten Irish Christmas traditions


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5. The Hanukkah Menorah

The Hanukkah Menorah is an eight-branched candelabrum that has been a symbol of Judaism for almost 3000 years. It’s also the emblem of Israel, and was used in the ancient Holy Temple in Jerusalem. In Ireland Menorah’s have become wildly popular window ornaments at Christmas, placed there by unwitting Irish people who have no idea that they’re actually celebrating Hanukkah.


6. The Midnight Mass

Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve is a tradition that marks one of the most joyful occasions in the Catholic calendar – the birth of Christ. But many Irish families will attend this mass just to give themselves time off on Christmas Day to cook, attend parties, visit the relatives or rest up.

This being Ireland, by midnight on Christmas Eve quite a few of the faithful have a few drinks taken before they reach the pews. So in some parishes Midnight Mass is becoming a thing of the past as the sight of reeling drunks and riotous behavior isn’t in keeping with the message of the season. If you’re visiting Ireland try to catch this mass, because it’s a link to the traditions of an older Ireland that seems to be going, if not quite gone with the wind.


7. The Sherry Trifle

Sherry Trifle is a Christmas Day desert to be reckoned with. Served with fresh whipped cream, it will supply you with everything Christmas cooking is all about in one dish: fat, sugar, dairy and alcohol.
People who have grown up outside of Ireland usually consider it an unappetizing gut buster, but the Irish can live for weeks on this stuff. It’ll probably give you a sugar coma and gas, but it’s as authentic a Christmas dish as it gets.

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8. The Boxing Day Swim

This is an Irish tradition along the Irish coastline, which means almost everywhere, since Ireland is an island nation. On the day after Christmas Days thousands of hearty souls strip down to their bathing suits to take a bracing full body dip in the sea. Don’t expect an episode of Baywatch, though.

There’s something completely reviving about the extremes of heat and cold that accompany this take the plunge experience and that’s why it grows in popularity every year. Be sure to donate to one of the many charities that sponsor these events.


9. The Selection Box

Selection boxes are made up of the best candy bars on sale all thrown together in one box. Cadbury’s sell them, so does Nestle, so does Mars etc. Don’t visit a family with young kids without bringing one if you want to be considered a thoughtful guest.

In fact, don’t go anywhere empty handed in Ireland over Christmas. The worst insult in the Irish catalogue of curses is to be called cheap, tight, jammy bas-ard. Once you’ve been called that it will stick to you and then to your offspring, and then to theirs for seven generations. Avoid this.

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10. The New Years Eve Party

Watch out for these. Irish New Year’s Eve’s can be life-changing experiences. Be prepared for much more than having a good time. It’s the one night of the year when the Irish decide that all bets are off, the gloves come off, and no punches are pulled. It’s also the one night of the year when the hopes and dreams of the previous 364 are vocally expressed (many marriages and divorces are announced within a few week of New Years Day).

Beneath their playful surfaces Irish people are a surprisingly passionate lot. And on New Year’s Eve, with the booze flowing freely, expect to hear them sing, cry, laugh, lament and shout and possibly even tell you they love you. Just don’t expect to hear another word about it until the following year. Now that’s a real Irish Christmas!

To spend New Years Eve with the Irish, visit: