The coming weeks and approaching festivities signals a favorite time of the year for many. As Christmas mania sweeps across the world, people are reminded of just why they love and indeed hate the holiday season.
As the clock counts down to he big day, we have come up with our top reasons to spend Christmas in Ireland.
It doesn’t matter if you're on vacation, visiting relatives or going home to your Mammy, there are few places that rival Ireland during the holiday period.
Christmas Day- everything is closed
Pubs and all other businesses are generally closed on Christmas day in Ireland, although many exceptions exist especially in cities.
Although some people like to moan about the fact that they are restricted to their own homes, for many others it is a great opportunity to chill out with the family or take a walk to the neighbors for an after-dinner sherry.
St. Stephens Day - the fun and banter that only happens once a year
Annually St. Stephens Day is one of the busiest days in Ireland's pubs and restaurants and sees many people venture out after getting their fill of family time on Christmas day.
With the holiday season in tow, many people are home from far and near, making it the best day to catch up with old friends and new acquaintances.
Christmas pudding - nothing like your Mothers annual baking
Of course we all love to indulge in the finest home cooked treats on Christmas day. An over-stuffed turkey, lashings of gravy and some honey roasted ham. Food in Ireland at Christmas is a fantastic reason to venture to Emerald Isle.
The biggest treat for many is a slice of delicious Christmas pudding, a traditional Irish speciality enjoyed by many during the holiday season.
Try our Chef Gilligan's Gourmet: Christmas Cake recipe here.
Christmas Day Mass - for some, the one and only church outing of the year
While the Catholic Church in Ireland has witnessed declining numbers attending religious services in recent years. Christmas Day Mass remains a sacred tradition with many people in Ireland with many families filling pews of churches around Ireland. It is also an important tradition to visit the altar after mass is over to see the baby Jesus in his crib.
The twelve pubs of Christmas
Typically Irish we would have to add alcohol appreciate into the festivities. Ireland's answer to the twelve days of Christmas, the twelve pubs of Christmas sees revellers across the island visit twelve pubs in their locality in any one night.
While of course this tradition encourages irresponsible drinking habits, for one day in the year it also fosters continued friendships and festive cheer.
Christmas Day swim
A great Irish tradition, many people gather in freezing temperatures for annual Christmas Day swims which occur all around the country.
Many take part in this tradition for charity while for others a dip in Ireland's freezing waterways on Christmas day has just become a seasonal habit!
The Wren Boys, a Christmas tradition enjoyed by all
While many people venture to the pub on St Stephens day, others opt for the old Irish tradition of the Wren Boys, where people dress up, paint their faces and travel from house to house usually singing and dancing.
It is a great opportunity for young and old to venture out for a wander around neighborhoods while also providing entertainment.
READ MORE- about the Wren Boys and other Celtic Customs here,
Over indulgence as homes are packed with food and drink
Ireland is very fond of it's food and drink and this is especially true at Christmas. It is the one day of the year that you don’t know what to eat as there is such a choice on offer.
Brandy butter, the mandatory bird and in some houses even a goose are all accompanied by every variation of potato available, roasted, mashed, baked and boiled. Mince pies, Cadbury's selection boxes, and a tin of Roses all spell the same thing, overindulgence as the holiday season arrives.
Food runs and meals on wheels, as communities reach out to those in need
There is no other time of the year when it is so important to remember those who need us most. Every village, town and city in Ireland has people delivering meals and making house during Christmas Day to ensure that no one goes hungry.
People often invite their elderly neighbors around for dinner or some perhaps a hot toddy in the evening, igniting the true Christmas spirit in us all.
Horseracing at Leopardstown, or Limerick
The week after Christmas also brings tens of thousands to the big horse racing festivals at Leopardstown in South Dublin and Limerick.
It is a wonderful occasion, with all the ladies dressed to kill and the men dying to get that Christmas expenses winner.
To learn more go to www.Irishracing.com.
But most of all...There's no place like home, especially at Christmas
If you are lucky enough to consider Ireland your home then needless to say there is no better reason to be there during the festive season. Surrounding yourself with your family and friends reminds us all of the true meaning of Christmas.
Regardless of all the hype, commercial saturation and panic prior to the big day, the only thing that really matters is chowing down with your loved ones, and there is no better place to do this other than the green pastures of home.
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