The winter months may be cold in Ireland, but Christmas
time has a warmth of its own.
It's a time when the clan gathers together as towns and villages throughout the land welcome home the prodigals with a warm smile and a drink or two in the local pub.
In the Christian tradition, still closely, though these days not so rigorously observed in Ireland, the Christmas season starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day. The interim period is called Advent, where strictly speaking, all good Christians should be in Church every Sunday prior to Christmas.
In Ireland the unofficial Christmas calendar starts on the 8th of December and is generally speaking, when people from the country head into Dublin to get their Christmas shopping done. There are a number of special Christmas Markets throughout Ireland. Of the largest and most popular markets there are Temple Bar markets in Dublin, flogging food, fashion, books and handy crafts. There are street stalls in Killarney with French and Irish craft markets and continental Christmas Markets set up in the grounds of City Hall in Belfast.
The Christmas holiday period then starts on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day is a day where everything is closed as people stay at home to enjoy their Christmas Dinner with the family. The following day in Ireland is held as St Stephen's Day and is a public holiday. In some parts of Ireland people travel from house to house singing and playing music - in most other parts they go to the pub!
If any day over the Christmas period is a day for ‘making merry' shall we say it is St Stephen's Day. The pubs are filled to the rafters and everywhere seems to uphold their own traditions and impromptu events. St Stephen's Day is also when two of Irish Horse Racings most prestigious festivals begin - the Leopardstown Christmas Racing Festival, just outside Dublin and the Guinness Christmas Racing Festival in Limerick. These four-day race meetings are great for a festive flutter and a good excuse for getting away form the kids!
The following few days are quiet in Ireland - allowing for the hangovers to have sufficiently recovered in time for New Year's Eve, which is celebrated with the usual gusto. On New Year's Day the pubs are open in Ireland for those in need of a hangover cure. The Irish Christmas calendar comes to a close on the 12th Day of Christmas, the 6th January, when people celebrate Women's Little Christmas, a day when traditionally the women have the day off and the men have to do all the household chores.
many people in Ireland, including myself, Christmas will be seen
largely through the bottom of a pint glass! So from myself and all
at 1 2 Travel, we wish you Nollaig faoi shéan is faoi mhaise
duit agus Athbhliain faoi mhaise duit - A prosperous and pleasant
Christmas and a prosperous New Year!
Until this time next month...
Conor B & Seamus.