Nollaig Shona Duit'
pronounced as 'null-ig hun-a dit'
means - "Happy Christmas" in Gaelic
Santa Claus is known as 'San Nioclás' (Saint Nicholas) or 'Daidí na Nollag' (Father Christmas)
The official Christmas season in Ireland seems to vary by which site you visit but generally it seems it begins on Dec 8th and lasts until the Feast of the Epiphany or Little Chistmas on Jan 6th, with variations in the middle. It seems most people are blessed with vacation or as they say "holiday" from about Dec 21 until Jan 2.
Having not quite been taken over by commericalism to the extent it has in the US, it is still more of a religious holiday rich in religious tradition and family, than gifts and Santa. Many attend church services with the Midnight Mass being the most popular for Roman Catholics & Christmas Day Services for Protestant religions. Lights and nativities decorate towns much like they do here and in the homes christmas trees are decorated with tincil & baubles or what we would call bulbs. Traditionally othe decorations are made of holly and ivy as those were plentiful throughout the homesteads & villiages in earlier times. Wreaths would be hung on the door made from these and lghted candles shine in the windows to aid Mary & Joseph's journey. Decorations are faithfully taken down on January 6th, as it is considered bad luck to take them down earlier.
On Christmas Eve tables can be found set with a seed cake, or bread filled with caraway seeds, & milk for Mary & Joseph should they arriive & need nourishment. Tradional Christmas dinners include goose, ham or more recently turkey served with a variety of potatoes of course including mashed, roasted [Recipe - Click here] & boiled which is generally topped with butter, parsley & garlic. A variety of vegetables are also offered such as parsnips, cabbage and brussel sprouts. Dessert is generally Plum Pudding - which incidentally has no plums...
The holiday season brings with it additional traditions including taking a Christmas Swim, or enjoying St. Stephen's Day (aka Boxing Day - the day after Christmas) with the traditional meal including beef spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, or perhaps by enjoying horse races and foorball [soccer]. some still practice the tradition of visiting home to home which all began with the wren, "The Devil's Bird".
In earlier centuries known as the Penal Times (1538-1839) there became a tradition of groups of people traveling from house to house wearing old clothes & blackened faces while carrying a pole topped with holly & a dead wren. Thankfully, the dead wren is no longer part of the tradition but it becgan because
there was once a plot of attack in the rage between religions. The wrens tapped the drums of the group about to be attacked awakening and sparing them the ambush. from then on the attackers referred to the bird as "The Devil's Bird".
The Feast of the Epiphany or Little Christmas celebrated on January 6th is also called 'Nollaig na mBean' or Women's Christmas. On this day women get the day off & men do all the work - woo yoo!
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Amylynne (Baker) Murphy