Irish Christmas Traditions

13/12/2005 9:12 am

Christmas in Ireland (An Nollaig) starts very early, with cards and decorations in the shops from October.

Plum Pudding which is the traditional Christmas Day desert is made early as it takes a few weeks to mature. Christmas fruit cake is made and iced just before Christmas. Children often use advent calendars to count down the days to Christmas. Christmas trees are brought in anytime in December and decorated with colored lights,tinsel and baubles. Some people favor the angel on top others the star.

The house is decorated with garlands, candles, holly , and ivy. Wreaths are hung on the door and some people hang mistletoe. Cribs (sets of figures representing the nativity) are also common, and churches have large versions which are put out at Christmas Before Christmas gifts (usually of money) are made to people who perform services throughout the year, milkman, dustbin men (garbage) etc. Christmas cakes,Plum puddings and mince pies are made. Mulled wine is often drunk around Christmas, especially after a cold evenings carol singing! People do sometimes go out carol singing to raise money for charity. (Many people in Ireland enjoy a hot Irish whiskey in the winter months as a warmer) On Christmas eve children put out stockings or in some cases pillow cases, on the end of their bed for Father Christmas to fill. Adults often go to midnight Mass (Catholic) or midnight Service (Protestant) to see in Christmas Day. Some people open their gifts then in the middle of the night! Children opening their stockings in the morning traditionally find an apple in the toe and an orange or tangerine in the heel. Many people include a bag of chocolate coins with the tiny toys. Some people sit down to Christmas dinner at lunchtime, often as late as 3 pm. There is no traditional appetizer, but its likely to be something like smoked salmon with brown soda bread, Prawn cocktail or something similar. The main course is fairly standard - turkey, a ham, stuffing, cranberry sauce, bread sauce, sausages, potatoes and vegetables. Dessert is Christmas Plum Pudding with brandy or rum sauce or brandy butter and cream. Mince pies are also eaten. The table will usually have crackers to be pulled during the meal. Christmas cake is usually cut in the afternoon on Christmas Day. Some families eat their main meal in the evening, serving main dishes of spiced beef (another traditional Irish Christmas food). This is beef that has been spiced over several days and cooked and then pressed. It can be served hot but is usually served cold at some stage over the holiday period. Pantomimes traditionally start on Saint Stephen´s Day and yes, men do play the women's parts and women the men's parts with a few exceptions. The handsome prince will be played by a girl, but so would Cinderella or Snow White. The step mother is always a man, as are the ugly sisters. Subjects include, Babes in the Wood, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Puss in Boots. In Dublin each year, there are at least 2 pantomimes going on. The 6th of January is the official day when all the decorations are removed