As mentioned in my prior post, I have spent the last three Christmases at my boyfriend’s home in Ireland. The country of Ireland is breathtaking in itself but it is truly magical at Christmas time. Picture The Holiday but even better. Every town is lit up with lights, cheer, and pure excitement for Santa to show up. It’s a time when everyone is home visiting family, the pubs are buzzing, decorations are everywhere, and the streets are filled with happy shoppers. If you ever want to visit Ireland then I strongly suggest booking your trip during this time of the year. It’s an amazing experience to celebrate another country’s cultural traditions and I’m going to share a few of my favorite Irish traditions that I’ve picked up in recent years.
The most well known Christmas tradition in Ireland is having the “craic” in pubs (Gaelic word pronounced crack and NOT the drug). The pubs are so lively at this time of year with Christmas parties, people wearing their ugliest holiday jumpers and pub crawls like the “12 Pubs of Christmas.” The 12 Pubs is where everyone has one drink at each of the pubs you choose and you end up having the best time laughing with all of your friends. The night usually ends with being rightfully drunk and eating at a late night chipper (slang for a fish and chips shop or fast food joint). There’s truly no better way to spend the holiday season.
When you’re in the pubs this time of the year you will most likely hear a lot of lively music including some traditional Irish music with fiddles, flutes, tin whistles, and banjos. A particular favorite Irish holiday song is called Fairytale of New York by the Pogues. It’s a classic Irish tune played around this time of year and it really brings out the holiday spirit and emotions of the country.
The best part about an Irish Christmas is that the fun doesn’t end on the 25th of December, it continues into Boxing Day/St Stevens Day on the 26th. For many this means another great day spent with family or keeping warm in the pub aka drinking with your best mates. (Fun fact, the only two days of the year that the bars are officially closed in Ireland are Good Friday and Christmas Day.) Even still, Christmas is not officially over until second Christmas comes around (also known as “Little Christmas”) on January 6th. This day officially marks the end of the festivities and thereafter you can take down your decorations.
Family time is huge around Christmas in Ireland. A lot of Irish fled the country during the economic crisis and this time of the year is when many return home from Dubai, Canada, America, Australia or New Zealand to spend time with their family and friends. These families gather for Christmas dinner over turkey, ham, potatoes, vegetables followed by Christmas pudding, mince pies, and chocolates. Religious families may also attend the midnight mass at their local parish on Christmas day.
The only consistent tradition that probably exists around the world at this time of the year is shopping. One of my favorite places to go shopping in Ireland is in Galway or Dublin. Grafton Street in Dublin is packed with shops, street markets, and filled with many buskers on the streets singing. Even Bono, Glen Hansard, and Ed Sheeran are known to make appearances playing around the streets for Christmas. Penny’s and Brown Thomas are my all time favorite stores in Ireland if you ever visit but the best part of a shopping day is when we stop to warm up by the fire in a pub and order Irish coffees or hot whiskeys with our lunch. I have so many memories of drinking a hot whiskey in Ireland and they truly make you feel merry and cosy during the winter. It was in those small and happy moments shared with my boyfriend, his family, and friends that made my Christmases in Ireland spectacular.
P.S. If you want to make yourself a warm and satisfying holiday drink then I strongly suggest making an Irish hot whiskey. The recipe is extremely easy with only four simple ingredients and not too powerful of a whiskey taste. Find my favorite one here.