Irish Christmas Traditions Past and Present

I just love Christmas in Ireland, a celebration like no other! I have put together some of my favourite traditions that originated in Ireland, or that are completely unique. I hope you enjoy, and even try incorporating some of them to your Christmas celebrations this year.

The ‘Forty Foot’ or Christmas Swim

This one is not for the faint hearted. Many Irish people start their Christmas day with a swim in the sea. For those around Dublin, this takes place at the Forty Foot where people jump into the freezing cold water. Members of my family still do this today! Would you brave a Christmas day swim? 

A Candle in the Window

A candle in the window is a popular tradition in Ireland. The candle is meant to signify guiding Mary and Joseph to the stable for the birth of baby Jesus. 

Midnight Mass

With Christmas day often being a hectic affair, Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve is a lovely way to see friends, neighbours and members of the community. The church is always packed, and the mass is particularly festive. Carols are sung, music is played and everyone leaves fully in the spirit of Christmas. 

Celebration of Mary 

Now I may be biased, but the celebration of Mary, the mother of Jesus, is another revered tradition in Ireland. The lighting of the candle in the window is often carried out by a girl called Mary (which at one point was the most popular name in Ireland). Similarly, the taking down of decorations would often be started by a girl named Mary.

The Wren (often pronounced 'wran') Boy Procession

The Wren Boy Procession takes plays on St. Stephen's Day, 26th December each year. The history of the tradition relates to a group of sleeping soldiers about to be ambushed when they were awoken by a wren pecking a drum. Boys and girls dress up in old clothes with painted faces and travel from house to house collecting money for a local charity. The tradition varies from place to place, playing music, singing and straw hats are common. The tradition is particularly well-kept in Kerry, where it originated. Dingle is well-known for having the best procession which parades through the town each year. 


Little Christmas (Nollaig na mBan)

One of my favourites traditions, 'Little Christmas' or 'Women's Christmas' heralds the end of the festive season. It takes place on the feast of the Epiphany (6th December) Decorations are taken down and put away...but it is the women's turn to rest. Women's Christmas is celebrated in different ways today, with many women getting together with their girlfriends in the local pub, or by the men in the house cooking a meal for the women. 


Our January theme is 'Sláinte'. What better way to start 2020 than with a special selection of Irish treats to help toast the new year? Subscribe today. 

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