Thursday, December 13, 2012

Today I learned about Christmas in Ireland

Posted by Daniexmachina

Continuing with learning about other countries' Christmas traditions, today we have a look at Ireland! Although most people in Ireland say "Happy Christmas" as their holiday greeting, the Irish Gaelic phrase for it is "Nollaig Shona Dhuit". If you are looking for a lovely blessing to offer, try this Irish Christmas blessing, “The light of the Christmas star to you, The warmth of home and hearth to you, The cheer and good will of friends to you, The hope of a childlike heart to you, The joy of a thousand angels to you, The love of the Son and God’s peace to you.”

A tradition used in Ireland that is still practiced there and here as well, is that of hanging holly as Christmas decoration. Holly grows naturally in Ireland and is one of few plants to bloom in the winter. To the Ancient Celts holly represented life and rebirth. The evergreen leaves represented life during a time when there was no other life and the berries were symbolic of the coming of spring. When Christianity came to Ireland, the berries took new meaning as new life in Jesus.  

One interesting piece of folklore surrounding holly said that putting it out was a kind gesture to tiny fairies who hid in it from the cold. Holly wreaths on the door here started when the Irish immigrated here during the Great Potato Famine. On another plant-related note, the Celts also believed that mistletoe had healing properties. The powers of the plant were so great that it encouraged a momentary truce between even enemies. This is where the kissing under the mistletoe came from.

Like the Scots, the Irish also followed the tradition of keeping a lit candle in the window to guide the Holy Family in their travel. If you had no light, you were saying "No Room" like the innkeeper of yore. Nobody would want to be guilty of turning away the Holy Family. 

Some other fun facts about Irish Christmas include the tradition of leaving mince meat pies and a bottle of Guinness out for Santa. Most children find their presents in a sack in their bedroom rather than under the tree or in a stocking. Also, they have something they call "Little Women's Christmas", which is January 6th. That day is just for women to go out and have fun while the men take care of housework, cooking and taking down the Christmas decorations. Traditionally it is bad luck to take down the decorations before this day. 

I hope you all enjoyed today's lesson. Remember to wish everyone a Nollaig Shona Dhuit and leave a Guinness out for Santa!


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