That’s Merry Christmas in Gaelic! To be honest the literal translation lines up better with Happy Christmas. The Irish, like the Brits, tend towards Happy for their Christmas. I like this and might try it out this December! In honor of St. Patrick’s Day we will focus on some Irish Christmas information and traditions this week. Let’s start with some basics. Christmas in Ireland is celebrated much as in the rest of Europe. There does tend to be a stronger emphasis on the religious aspects of the holiday due to the strong Catholic presence in Ireland. The high focus of the season lasts from Christmas Eve through Epiphany. Santa visits the children in Ireland and is known as Santy. Treats are left out for him on Christmas Eve but no milk and cookies! Mince meat pie and Guinness for Santy and carrots for the reindeer. Family, song, and hearty meals fill the celebrations of most throughout the season. The Irish place great emphasis on dessert including cakes, pies, yule logs, and puddings. Some of these are coated in rich sauces and may even be lit on fire for special celebrations. On Christmas Eve it is tradition in Ireland for small white candles or electric lights to be placed in the windows of the home. These are a sign of welcome to family, travelers and even strangers! Symbolically welcoming the christ child as well. Midnight mass is very important. Gifts are exchanged on Christmas morning. One Irish speciality for Christmas morning is the swim. Throughout Ireland the hearty take part in a plunge into the sea Christmas morning. Today the swims are mostly organized to benefit a local charity in the town or village where the swim occurs. Diving into the freezing North Atlantic or Irish Sea is a task for only the hearty! There are a few other great Irish events I will share in detail in later posts. Whitewashing and the Wrenboy procession merit more in-depth discussion. We will also talk about some Irish music, food, and other bits o’ knowledge.