Christmas Customs in Ireland long ago
‘Christmas in Ireland was very much a family festival
when sons and daughters who were working away from home
returned home for Christmas.
Many families looked forward to a letter or parcel
from family members who had gone to America.
This was sure to contain not only good wishes
but also a present of money.
Shopkeepers gave a Christmas box to thank families
for shopping with them. This was often a box of biscuits or a bottle of port.
A candle was lit and placed in the window on Christmas Eve.
The eldest member of the family helped the youngest to do this.
This was done to show that Joseph and Mary,
who found no room at the inn in Bethlehem,
were welcome in the house.
It was believed that at midnight on Christmas Eve,
cows and donkeys knelt to honour the Baby Jesus
and that at that moment, they could talk.
The animals were given an extra feed on Christmas Eve.
Christmas Day was spent at home.
It was very much a family festival
and people didn’t visit unless specially invited to do so.
On Stephen’s Day the branch of a tree was decorated
and the ‘wren boys’ went from house to house
singing in the neighbourhood in return for treats.
These are my memories of Christmas
in Ireland in the 1940s and 50s.
In ways it seems so long ago
but in other ways it only seems like yesterday..’