In Ireland as in most of the Eastern countries, Christmas is the largest and most important celebration of the year, taking place between the 24th of December to the 6th of January. Christmas decorations have to be taken down on this last day known as “Little Christmas”, and it is said to bring bad luck to take them down before then.
As in Spain, it is an Irish tradition for people to decorate their houses by setting a traditional crib. They also set the Christmas tree which is officially set up on the 8th of December to commemorate the Immaculate Conception. The placing of a ring of Holly on doors originated in Ireland as Holly was one of the main plants which flourished at Christmas time and poor people used them to decorate their houses. This plant along with ivy, are also used by the Irish in Christmas to decorate graves.
Candles are lit and placed on the windows to symbolize hospitality for Mary and Joseph as a way of saying that there is room for them in these houses. It also used to indicate a safe place for priests to perform mass because during the Penal Times this was not allowed.
It is a tradition that the candle should be lit by the youngest member of the house and only be extinguished by a girl named “Mary”.
In older years, after the Christmas Eve meal, the kitchen was again set and on it they placed a piece of bread filled with caraway seeds and raisins, a glass of milk and a large lit candle. The door to the house was left unlocked so that Mary and Joseph could make use of the welcome.
Traditionally, before going to bed, kids left a mince pie and a bottle of Guinness for Santa Claus and carrots for Rudolph; but because of the American influence, recently the mince pie is been replaced with cookies and Guinness with milk… Sure Santa or “Santy” (as they call him) is not very happy with this change.
There is an Irish recent tradition called “The Christmas swim”; on Christmas morning people take a swim at the sea, often done in aid of charity. It officially started in 1965. Arlon Owens and his friend Victor Davies would go for a swim in the sea everyday including Christmas day year after year. When people started gathering to watch these men dipping into the icy waters at the Porthcawl harbor they decided to treat it as a fund-raising spectacle. Today is a national organization called “The Porthcawl Christmas Swim” with thousands of spectators and swimmers every year that contribute to the founding.
Check out their web site: http://christmasswim.org/
Hope you all have a wonderful holidays and 'Nollaig Shona Duit' (Merry Christmas)
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