Irish Christmas Quirks

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Ridley: Okay, so it’s the first of December and I am now officially allowing myself to get excited for Christmas!! Yay! Mind so is everyone else, I wandered into town earlier (town being Dublin city centre) and the place was thronged with people, who all obviously decided that now it was officially December it was acceptable to begin their Christmas shopping. I’ve never seen so many bags in people’s hands or walls of children filled buggies on the streets as I did today, and of course I got bashed and thumped by everything and everyone! Though it’s all part of the fun…of course…haha. Now in the spirit of the upcoming holiday i thought I’d share some Irish specific Christmas traditions (though maybe some of these happen elsewhere in the world too. especially the food, which is also found in the UK.)

The Late Late Toy Show

This marks the start of Christmas for every Irish person. It’s an annual toy show that displays all the latest gadgets, toys and books that every child is probably going to want as a present off Santa Claus (better know as Santy or Father Christmas here) come December the 25th. It also shows off the talent of Irish youngsters, with lots of children singing, playing instruments and dancing. The auditions for these slots go on for weeks beforehand. All the adults in the audience have to dress up too. The programme is broadcast live, and is regularly the most watch show of the year on Irish television. There is also the added excitement of the Christmas Jumper Reveal, where the host (currently Ryan Tubridy, but everyone loved the original host and beginner of the Jumper Reveal, Gay Byrne) forgoes wearing his usual suit and tie for the normally serious talk show (The Late Late) and puts on a crazy looking Christmas Jumper, the picture of which often ends up in our national newspapers the next day, and is usually the topic of gossip for a few days.

Busking Bono

Now a bit of a tradition, Bone from U2, and whoever he manages to get involved (last year it was Glen Hansard, Lisa Hannigan, Sinéad O’Connor, Liam Ó Maonlaí) go busking on Grafton street for charity, and they usually get thronged by tourists (while the rest of us try to look unimpressed, but secretly we all are).

Midnight Mass

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We all pack into mass in the church, usually everyone goes (both believers and non-believers), sometimes it’s at 10pm in some places and not actually 12pm, though it’s still called midnight mass. There’s usually lots of carols sung at it, and at the end of the service, people go up to the crib, where there is a figure of a baby Jesus (along with the wise men, the shepherd, Mary and Joseph and animals) and people take a piece of straw from the manger, and they place this in their purse or wallet so that it will ‘never be empty’ for the coming year.

Christmas Food

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Sherry trifle: It’s a desert made of madeira cake, bird’s eye custard, sherry, jelly, fruit, topped with cream, and in some households there are chocolate sprinkles on the top of the cream (we don’t do this in ours). It’s beautiful tasting.

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USA biscuits: I think every household in the country has a tin of these in their kitchen, it’s either bought or received as a present, and the bickies in them are always great with a cup of tea!

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Cadbury’s Roses and Quality Street chocolates: There’s a raging friendly war in my house over which is better – don’t listen to what anyone else says, it’s Cadbury’s Roses. These tins of chocolates are bought in their hundreds at this time of year here, there’s always one open in people’s houses, usually on the coffee table, they’re given as presents, and often times shops will have a little plate or bowl of them at the till for customers to take one. My favourite is the long purple sweet in the Roses tin, which is basically a caramel chocolate with a nut in the middle. Yum.

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Mince pies: Not a fan myself, but they’re extremely popular, it is a small palm sized sweet pie, traditionally in olden times it would have actually had mincemeat or some sort of meat anyway, but not any more, it is filled with a mixture of dried fruits, sugar, spices and brandy.

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Plum pudding: It is a pudding composed of  dried fruits and is held together by egg and suet, sometimes moistened by treacle. Also, flavoured with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves ginger, and other spices. It usually has brandy poured over it and set on fire just before it’s cut up and eaten. There’s also always silver coins in the centre of the pudding, the finder of which is meant to get good fortune for the coming year.

Christmas FM

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A full radio station is set up in December which is devoted to Christmas songs for the month. Everyone tunes their car radios to this station for the few weeks its on. It gets a small bit depressing after Christmas when you hop into your car and the station has gone off air and there’s nothing but silence when you switch on your radio. *sigh*

Christmas Swim

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Some mad people go to the 40 foot in Sandycove in Dublin on Christmas day and jump into the sea, (which is freezing!!) all in the name of charity. It’s a tradition for some, not me, I like staying in my clothes in front of a fire for most of my Christmas! Any charity I do is usually in the warmth.

Nativity Scene

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The nativity scene is basically a baby Jesus in a manger, it’s set in a stables, and also present with him is Mary and Joseph, the Three Wise Men, the Shepherd and animals (usually a donkey, a sheep and a cow). This scene is in miniature form in most people’s houses here and then there is also a large version of the Nativity scene set up in almost every biggish town in the country, usually placed at the town hall or in the town square. It’s usually lit up and is extremely pretty.

Christmas Pyjamas

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I think a lot of people do this, most of my friends do it, I know it’s been a tradition in my family since I was very small. It’s always a given that you get pjs, fluffy or otherwise, as one of your Christmas presents, along with fluffy socks of course. These pjs are usually gotten from Penney’s, the best cheap clothes store chain in the country!!

Well that’s our Christmas, what’s yours??

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