Are you curious what are the Christmas traditions in Ireland?
Ireland has a rich cultural heritage, and the Christmas season is no exception. There is a strong emphasis on reconnecting with loved ones, and it is a busy period for travel since many Irish people living abroad want to spend Christmas and New Year’s with their families.
Christmastime snowfall is uncommon in Ireland, but that doesn’t dampen the holiday spirit! In Ireland, Christmas parties go on rain or shine because they always involve toasty fires, hot beverages, and friendly company. Irish Christmas is also a time for feasting, with many people spending weeks in advance preparing traditional dishes and drinks to share with friends and family.
Still, there is more to the Irish Christmas than just good chee. The country has a rich history of religious and secular customs dating back to the Gaels and the Catholic Church. Plan on spending the holidays in Ireland? Let’s have a look at the traditions of these people at this time of year.
Things you'll find in this article
- 9 Christmas Traditions In Ireland
- 1. Christmas Decorations in Ireland
- 2. A Thorough House Cleaning
- 3. Hanging a Holly Wreath
- 4. The (Ugly) Christmas Jumper
- 5. Making Mince Pies and Christmas puddings
- 6. Christmas Eve
- 7. Christmas Eve Box
- 8. Candle in the Window
- 9. The Irish Dining Tables on Christmas Day
9 Christmas Traditions In Ireland
1. Christmas Decorations in Ireland
Apart from the yard being illuminated with multicolored lights, you’ll also note that houses in Ireland have a Christmas tree placed in front of one of its windows.
In the past, the Christmas decorations weren’t put up until the 8th of December, a religious holiday in the country. These decorations remained until after Little Christmas, which was January 6th. These days, the excitement associated with the holiday season may be felt in Ireland early, just like it can in other nations. Many households even started putting up their Christmas decorations back in November.
2. A Thorough House Cleaning
The excellent Irish Christmas clean-up is yet another annual ritual in Irish homes. This is like doing a spring cleaning before Christmas to get the house ready for the holidays and the arrival of family, friends, and Santa.
Many Irish families observe this custom around the beginning of December, long before the Christmas tree and decorations are put up. Up until the big day, everything was meticulously cleaned, dusted, and hoovered; this included the windows, the drapes, and every nook and cranny.
Remember that this was a deep cleaning in addition to the regular daily and weekly cleanings. Preparing the house in this way is common practice for many families before hanging holiday decorations.
3. Hanging a Holly Wreath
It all started in rural Ireland, where holly grew in abundance and provided the resources for impoverished families to adorn their homes for Christmas. Making wreaths and hanging them on front doors became a popular trend. Garlands for the mantle of the fireplace and other holiday decorations were also crafted from holly.
Wreath-making lessons are offered throughout Ireland in December. They are well attended by individuals who want to incorporate this Irish Christmas custom into their holiday celebrations. But if you’re short on time, you can buy them.
4. The (Ugly) Christmas Jumper
Although the custom of wearing a Christmas jumper dates back decades, it wasn’t until the 1980s that it became popular. It quickly became the preferred option for festive gatherings.
However, as the years passed and styles changed, they eventually fell out of favor, and people stopped wearing them in public. By the late 1990s and early 2000s, they were more often than not presented as joke presents.
However, by 2012, the jumper’s original appeal had fused with the joke present trend to establish a new direction: taking satisfaction in wearing the ugliest Christmas jumper you can find.
People nowadays prowl for the most flashy, colorful, and tacky Christmas sweaters they can find. Ugly Christmas Jumper Day is celebrated by some businesses and charities to encourage employees and customers to show off their holiday spirit.
5. Making Mince Pies and Christmas puddings
After eating the traditional Christmas dinner on Christmas Day, no Irish holiday celebration would be complete without a serving of Christmas pudding for dessert. In Ireland and the United Kingdom, it is a staple of the holiday meal.
The traditional Christmas pudding is a rich fruit pudding made with a variety of dried fruits and additional components, including breadcrumbs, cloves, and other spices. Cream, vanilla ice cream, or custard is a common accompaniment.
Meanwhile, mince pies are a dessert pies loaded with dried fruit and spices that are finely minced. Mince pies, which traditionally feature meat, have their roots in the Crusades.
Making a Christmas pudding a few weeks ahead of Christmas Day is ideal since this gives the tastes and smells time to develop. It’s common practice to start baking these holiday treats at the end of November, right before the start of Advent.
Some families have a tradition of making Christmas pudding together, with each member getting to make a wish while they whisk the ingredients.
6. Christmas Eve
Most Irish people are Catholic, so on Christmas Eve, they attend midnight mass at their church. Then they all bring candles to light throughout the service. The purpose of the mass is to honor the birth of Jesus Christ.
Aside from that, there is usually a lot of food and drink spread around the kitchen table. Women also traditionally prepare a tiny seed cake for family meals. There are caraway seeds in this cake. Typically, after supper, families will leave behind some milk and bread. Doing so demonstrates graciousness and hospitality.
7. Christmas Eve Box
A Christmas Eve box is a relatively recent tradition that is gaining more and more followers with each passing year. It is essentially a unique box containing special treats you give to the people you care about on the evening before Christmas. This helps to make Christmas an even more exciting day.
The contents of a gift box for a child might contain new pajamas, Christmas books, or food for the reindeer, while the contents of a gift box for an adult might include a hot water bottle, a bath bomb, or prosecco.
8. Candle in the Window
One of the most recognizable and widely shared Irish Christmas traditions is the lighting of a candle and placing it in a window, especially on Christmas Eve.
This Irish tradition is believed to have originated during the Penal Times when it was necessary to have secret Catholic masses because open expression of the faith was punishable by death.
This practice is in reference to the night Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus could not locate a place to stay, a candle lit to welcome them. The candle also served as a code to let traveling priests know that it was a secure location to hold Mass.
9. The Irish Dining Tables on Christmas Day
Morning: Traditional Christmas Fry-Up
The traditional Christmas morning breakfast consists of fried eggs, bacon, sausage, black pudding, white pudding, potato farls, and, depending on the family, baked beans.
Although this practice is less frequent as families become more health conscious, it is still common for many to begin their Christmas day in this way.
Turkey with either sage and onion stuffing or thyme and onion stuffing is the star of the show at an Irish Christmas meal. As a side dish, the potatoes are prepared in a few different ways and served as mashed potatoes, roast potatoes, andato croquettes, Brussels sprouts and Yorkshire puddings are also served in the roast.
The Laden Table
In Ireland, the Christmas Day dinner is traditionally an extremely extravagant affair. Afterwards, the table is typically set again once the meal is finished and the dishes have been cleared.
This custom is commonly referred to as the Laden Table. A candle is lit, then milk and bread are placed on the table. This was done in older times as a sign of welcome for Mary and Joseph, who might just stop and bless the Irish family for Christmas.
Hi, I’m Christine – a full-time traveler and career woman. Although I’m from the Philippines, my location independent career took me to over 40 countries for the past 8 years. I also lived in 3 continents – from the Caribbean, South East Asia to Africa. But despite living in several countries, my love for Ireland remains the same. A country that had been a part of my life since I was 14 because of my love for Irish music and bands. Ireland Travel Guides was born because of this passion and hopefully, in some little ways, this website will be able to help you on your next trip to Ireland.