Christmas in Ireland is a festive occasion.

Christmas in Ireland is a festive occasion. The season
officially starts on December 8th and doesn’t end

 

until January 6th. On the first day of the Christmas season,
the markets are full of shoppers and the

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decorations are put up everywhere. Popular decorations in
Irish homes are much like the ones we use

 

here in America. Mantles are decked with holly, trees
decorated with holly, ribbons, and pine cones.

 

And of course, mistletoe in the doorways. In fact, the
tradition of hanging mistletoe in doorways

 

actually started in Ireland. Each evening when darkness
falls, lighted candles are placed in every

 

window as a symbol of lighting the way for Mary and Joseph to
find their way to safety. When the

 

tradition first began back in the middle ages, only a girl
named Mary was allowed to light and

 

extinguish the candle, since Mary is so important to the
Catholics. This was actually easier than it

 

sounds, because back then, Mary was the most common Irish
name.

 

 

Although the season starts a couple weeks earlier, Christmas
eve is when the celebration really begins.

 

On Christmas eve is the Midnight mass. Most people in Ireland
are catholic, so Midnight mass is

 

always well attended. When everyone gets home, the children
leave out mincemeat pie and alcohol

 

Santa, and a carrot for Rudolph.  Then, they put a pillowcase by the end of
their bed and fall asleep. In

 

the morning, when they wake up, the pillowcase will be filled
with toys. In some Irish families, its a

 

tradition to put an empty manger in the living room, where on
Christmas morning, a parent will put a

 

baby Jesus doll in it. After opening all the presents,
Christmas dinner will begin. The most popular item

 

on the table is the Christmas goose. There will be lots of
other food on the table, too, such as smoked

 

salmon, potato stuffing, Christmas cake, fudge, and mashed
potatoes. Christmas day is also when the

 

Christmas Day Swim happens. Every Christmas morning,
thousands of people all over Ireland put on a

 

swimsuit and a Santa hat and jump into the frigid waters off
the coast.

 

 

Even after Christmas day is over and done, the celebration
certainly isn’t. December 26th is St.

 

Stephen’s day, and there are plenty of races, parades, and
the annual st Stephen’s day hunt. A St.

 

Stephen’s day tradition is the Wren boys’ Procession, where a
large group of people, mostly men, dress

 

up in costumes with masks and blackened faces, carrying a
pole with holly and a dead wren on it,

 

begging for money. This tradition started in the middle ages,
when British soldiers were taking mover

 

Ireland. The Irish made a plan to attack the soldiers, but
when they had them surrounded, a group of

 

wrens pecked on their drums and gave them away, foiling their
plot. So the Irish name the wren “The

 

devil’s Bird,” and in memory of that event, they began The
Wren Boy’s procession.  (Back in the

 

middle ages they killed a real wren and used it, but now they
use stuffed animals)

 

 

The season ends on January 6th, which is also
known as “Little Christmas.” On that day, the men stay

 

home, cook, clean, and take down the Christmas decorations –
it’s bad luck if they don’t. Then, the

 

women can spend the day doing whatever they like. Presents
are bought for the women and

 

grandmothers as an appreciation for all the hard work they’ve
done through the Christmas season. A

 

fancy dinner, just like on Christmas day, is served.

 

 

 

Our family has some Christmas traditions, as well. On the
Saturday after Thanksgiving is when The

 

Christmas season officially starts for us. We decorate the
house and play Christmas music. During The

 

Christmas season, we also bake lots of cookies, and a few
days before Christmas, we drive through a

 

neighborhood near our house that always decorates the whole
place from top to bottom. On Christmas

 

morning, my brother and I are allowed to get up as early as
we want to open our stockings.