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Ireland Fun Facts: Traditions of an Irish Christmas
December 15, 2005
A fine Irish holday season to you...

Please enjoy our best holiday wishes, and this list of our favorite
IrishChristmas traditions.
Robert Sullivan

Irish Christmas Proverb: “If Candlemas is wet or foul, half the winter has gone at Yule. If Candlemas is fine and fair, half the winter is to come and more."
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Ireland Fun Facts:

A Christmas Whitewashing
Around Christmastime, you’ll still find the odd farm building out in the Irish countryside that looks like it’s just been whitewashed. Long ago, farm families cleaned and then whitewashed every building on the farm in December. They were all covered in white paint or limewash, to symbolically purify them for the coming of the savior. The tradition traces back thousands of years, not just through Celtic culture, but through other Central European cultures.

Before Christmas Trees
Having an evergreen-type Christmas tree is a relatively new phenomenon in Ireland. Years ago, whole families went out to find holly bushes and ivy to decorate the mantelpiece and other parts of the house. Finding a holly bush with lots of berries was considered a harbinger of good luck in the coming year. Holly was also used because it allowed poor people could decorate their homes in the same way as those who were better off. The bush was so common in Ireland in winter there was plenty for everyone.

It’s considered bad luck to take down holiday decorations before “Little Christmas" on December 6th (see article below).

A Welcoming Candle
A Christmas candle in the window, still popular not just in Ireland but here in the US, was long displayed as a symbol of hospitality (though Ireland never had a rule quite as strident as Scotland’s “first footing," the New Year’s tradition dictating that one had to take in and lavishly entertain the very first person to enter one’s home after midnight). Window candles in Ireland were a symbol that the homeowner would welcome the Holy Family – unlike the inn keeper in Bethlehem who bore the guilt of having turned them away. During times of intolerance for Catholicism in Ireland, window candles also were meant to announce that it was safe to say mass in a home.

Leaving a mince pie and a bottle of Guinness out on Christmas Eve was once popular in Ireland. It was meant to be a snack for Santa Claus.

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Ancient Celts believed that mistletoe had tremendous healing powers. Christians saw it as such a strong symbol of paganism, in fact, that they banned it until the so-called “revival of Christmas" in the Victorian era.

On December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, virtually all schools in Ireland are closed for the day.

Pantomimes are still performed by small groups of amateurs and professional actors alike in the days following Christmas. Irish “pantos" are humorous productions of Cinderella, Snow White and other familiar fairytales. In them, men frequently play the part of women and vice versa. Generally, there’s a great deal of singing and dancing, with jokes making fun of eminent politicians or celebrities thrown in.

Feature Stories
Little Women's Christmas
Ireland's traditional "girls' night out is still observed by some dedicated ladies.

Christmas Plum Pudding
The fashion for light eating hasn't dimished Ireland's love of this cholesterol-mad dessert one bit. Recipe included.

Click here for tons of Ireland fun facts.

That's all for the moment! Until next time, let me know if you've got a great story to tell about Ireland at [email protected].

Robert Sullivan

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