Our Irish Christmas Traditions – What are Yours?

Every year, we follow many of the same Irish Christmas traditions here in County Cork. In this letter, Carina shares just some of these traditions - and I'm willing to bet you have some similar traditions in your own house!

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Our Irish Christmas Traditions – What are Yours?

Looking back, candles played a big part in my childhood Irish Christmas traditions. Of course we had Father Christmas (“Daidí Na Nollag” – pronounced “dad-ee nah nul-ug”) but the countdown to Christmas was anticipated by the lighting of candles. First up was Advent.

You are familiar no doubt with the Advent Calendar (Féilire Aidhbinte” – pronounced “Fail-er-ah add-vin-teh”) but we had the Advent Wreath. We made the wreath at the end of November and placed 4 candles in a circle nestled in the holly. Each Sunday in December a new candle was lit till all four were lighting on Christmas week and the 5th candle, a central white candle was lit on Christmas Day.

On Christmas Eve (“Oíche Nollag” pronounced “Eeh- Hah Nul-ug”), my father gathered us children to light The Christmas Candle. This was a sacred family ritual. My father lit the candle, said a short prayer and then we were all sprinkled with Holy water. It marked a time of peace in our busy household as we had a local shop that closed its doors for one day only – Christmas Day!

Yes! Christmas Day (“Lá Nollag – pronounced “Law Nulug”) had arrived finally. I remember my Grandparents had an old fashioned, homemade Christmas Candle. A large red candle was placed in a tin can filled with sand. The candle was wound with tinsel and holly and the can was decorated with colourful paper. It was placed in the deep windowsill of their north Cork farmhouse and shone as a beacon of welcome to all. Magical to us children on those dark nights.

With “Happy Christmas to ye” (“Nollaig faoi Mhaise daoibh” – pronounced “Nul-ug fwee vos-ha deeve”) ringing in our ears we headed home after the Christmas celebrations.

And then it is the New Year (“Blian Nua” – pronounced “Bleen Nooa”) and a fresh beginning. Everything seems stripped bare when the colourful decorations are taken down. So in my own home I light some new scented candles to cheer up the dark winter nights.

As we light our candles over Christmas we would like to wish all our Green Room Members Happy Christmas – “Nollaig faoi Mhaise daoibh” and a Happy New Year – “Blian Nua faoi mhaise dhaoibh”!

Before I go – a reminder that you can download and read our Letter From Ireland Christmas Special magazine here. Just click to see more.

In the meantime – do share your own Irish Christmas traditions below,

Slán for now, 


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