This week we put up our Christmas tree and put the Christmas light on the window. Many Irish households have this tradition of lighting a candle or light during Christmas. It got me thinking, is this an Irish thing?! And if so what other Christmas traditions are in fact uniquely Irish?
So firstly the light on the window. While traditionally this was a candle it has been replaced by a much safer electric candle light. The light symbolizes welcoming Mary and Joseph into your house. It has also come to represent the welcoming of those people far from home and act as guiding light for people travelling. Traditionally this candle was to be lit by the youngest member of the household. I've read a few descriptions saying it can only be extinguished by a girl called Mary! Like many other countries the Christmas tree is the main decoration in the house but in Ireland we also have a wreath of holly on the door. Holly grows wild in Ireland this time of year so is a very common decoration. This tradition has been passed down through the years when long ago poor people would use it to decorate their homes for Christmas.
Traditionally in Ireland the Christmas decorations would go up on the 8th December which is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. It was always a day when the schools closed and everyone from the country would take the opportunity to travel to the nearest city to do their Christmas shopping. Once Christmas was over it was considered bad luck to take down your decorations before the 6th January. This is Little Christmas or Women's Christmas. Called Nollaig na mBan in Irish, pronounced null-ig na mon. Traditionally it's a day off for the women of the house when the men would cook and clean. Now it's an excuse for women to meet up with friends and family and celebrate Woman's Christmas. So there you have just a few Irish Christmas traditions, I've many more like the wren boys and Christmas day swim to write about so hopefully I'll get a chance to do that next week.