Ireland Newsletter - Christmas traditions in Ireland
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IN THIS ISSUE
=== News Snaps from Ireland
=== New free resources at the site
=== Irish Christmas Traditions
=== Peculiarly Irish Words and Phrases #2: Craic
=== Christmas Love by Pat Watson
=== Gaelic Phrases of the Month
=== Monthly free competition result
Seasons greetings to you all and I hope that you
have enjoyed another year of your free newsletter
from Ireland. It has been a very strange and
stressful year in Ireland and 2011 promises to
offer further political and economic upheaval.
The deluge of snow and ice that has hit the
country is somehow appropriate given our
circumstances. Nevertheless, does the thaw not
Until next year,
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NEWS SNAPS FROM IRELAND
BUDGET PASSED BUT LIKELY TO BE CHANGED
The austerity budget that was announced by the
ailing Fianna Fail and Green party coalition
passed through the Irish Parliament and has
become law. It seems certain though that many
of its principal measures will be amended by
the new government that will take control in
the Spring, almost certainly to be composed of
Fine Gael and Labour.
Tax intake has reverted to 2003 levels while
government spending has increased by 70% over
the same period. Clearly this is a situation
that cannot continue and is the reason for
this latest in a series of cutbacks and tax
The main provisions of the budget were:
- 4 BN euro cut from public spending
- Social Welfare payments reduced by 4.1%
- Child benefit reduced by 16 euro per month
- Minimum wage to be cut by 1 euro per hour.
- Residential property tax introduced
BIG FREEZE HITS IRELAND AGAIN
For the second time in a month and for the third
time in 2010 the country has been blanketed in
snow and ice, paralyzing the transport
infrastructure and causing untold damage to
businesses who were hoping for a good Christmas
sales period. Traffic chaos on the roads was
followed by an increase in admissions to hospital
for the injured. The scene at Dublin airport was
one of utter chaos as thousands of people sought
to make their way abroad for the Christmas season
while thousands more could not arrive into Dublin
due to the delays.
County councils struggled to clear roads with grit
and salt while deliveries of oil, coal, fuel and
even food were hampered. Water rationing has been
introduced in many parts of the country while
electrical power outages have also been a feature.
These are mazing unprecedented scenes in Ireland.
The locusts are expected any day now.
IRISH LANGUAGE TARGETED IN 20-YEAR PLAN
A 20-year plan has been announced by the government
with the intention of trebling the number of Irish
speakers within the country. Gaeltacht communities
(those committed to speaking Irish) are to be
encouraged to find new ways to boost the language
which is seen as being under threat from a number
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Anne MacDonald of Massachusetts, USA ordered
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Received my plaque, carefully wrapped,
in good order. It is splendid! I am
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Everyone who has seen the plaque has been
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Sincerely, Anne MacDonald
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IRISH CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS
Ireland, like most countries, has a number of
Christmas traditions that are all of its own. Many
of these customs have their root in the time when
the Gaelic culture and religion of the country
were being suppressed and it is perhaps because of
this they have survived into modern times.
THE CANDLE IN THE WINDOW
The placing of a lighted candle in the window of a
house on Christmas eve is still practised today. It
has a number of purposes but primarily it was a
symbol of welcome to Mary and Joseph as they
travelled looking for shelter.
The candle also indicated a safe place for priests
to perform mass as, during Penal Times this was
A further element of the tradition is that the
candle should be lit by the youngest member of
the household and only be extinguished by a girl
bearing the name 'Mary'.
THE LADEN TABLE
After evening meal on Christmas eve the kitchen
table was again set and on it were placed a loaf
of bread filled with caraway seeds and raisins,
a pitcher of milk and a large lit candle. The door
to the house was left unlatched so that Mary and
Joseph, or any wandering traveller, could avail of
THE WREN BOY PROCESSION
During Penal Times there was once a plot in a
village against the local soldiers. They were
surrounded and were about to be ambushed when a
group of wrens pecked on their drums and
awakened the soldiers. The plot failed and the
wren became known as 'The Devil's bird'.
On St. Stephens day a procession takes place where
a pole with a holly bush is carried from house to
house and families dress up in old clothes and with
blackened faces or in straw costumes. In olden times
an actual wren would be killed and placed on top of
This custom has to a large degree disappeared but
the tradition of visiting from house to house on
St. Stephens Day has survived and is very much part
of Christmas. Modern day parades also take place in
Dingle and Sandymount in Dublin.
The placing of a ring of Holly on doors originated
in Ireland as Holly was one of the main plants
that flourished at Christmas time and which gave
the poor ample means with which to decorate their
All decorations are traditionally taken down on
Little Christmas (January 6th.) and it is
considered to be bad luck to take them down
TRADITIONAL GAELIC SALUTATION
The Gaelic greeting for 'Merry Christmas' is:
'Nollaig Shona Duit'
......which is pronounced as 'null-ig hun-a dwit'.
PECULIARLY IRISH WORDS AND PHRASES #2: CRAIC
The Irish have been having great craic for
years - honest! Before we continue it
should be established that we are not referring
to the illegal cocaine narcotic but to another
word that although pronounced as 'crack', seems
very peculiar to the Irish.
'having the craic'
'we had a great craic'
'what was the craic like'
'the craic was ninety'
These are all very commonly heard examples of
the word 'craic' in use in Ireland. It basically
means 'a good time' or 'fun'. It can also mean
'situation' or 'story' as in 'thats the craic'.
Hey, there are a lot worse than this floating
around the slangosphere. If a Dub were to call
you a 'sound tool' it would mean that, although
you are a decent person (sound) you are also
a bit of an idiot (a tool). A daycent dope if
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by Pat Watson
He was foot loose and fancy free, he had come
home from England this Christmas Eve with enough
money to cut a dash with the neighbours. Just
for Christmas he would have a ball, then back to
the bright lights of London. That's what he told
everyone but London could be a cold place,
flatland was no Utopia. He had got no sleep on the
boat, The Princess Maud, last night but his time
was short and he had to make the most of it, he
could sleep tonight. Next year he would go to
America, but for one last week he would enjoy the
craic in Ireland of the nineteen-fifties.
Then it happened, she just walked by, was she
real? Nobody moved like that. Was she on wheels?
No, she moved on the most beautiful legs, sort of
glided, as only one with a perfect shape could.
'Don't just stand there, follow her' he told
himself. The friends from whom he excused himself
looked on in amusement. He has it bad, one of
As he followed, a thought struck him, what would
he say when he caught up to her? He couldn't ask
if she was real. He couldn't just say,
'You are beautiful'. Maybe he would just scare
her. He had to think of something. He didn't get
the chance. She turned into the Friary Church. He
followed her. She joined the queue for confession.
He joined the queue for confession beside her.
When somebody came behind him it gave him an
excuse to move in close to her. Their shoulders
touched. Their hips touched, their knees touched.
He was glad the queue was long and the priest
slow. He could go on like this indefinitely,
moving on to sit where she had just sat, feeling
her warmth, listening to her breathing and
generally feeling comfortable in her aura. All
too soon her turn came and she disappeared into
the confessional. He listened hard but could hear
As she came out, he stood up to go in.
She stood in his way. He moved to the right. She
moved to the right. He moved to the left. She
moved to the left, nearly like dancing. He looked
down at her. She looked up at him, slightly
blushing, a hint of a glint, a trace of a Mona
Lisa smile, a foursome of freckles on a tiny
turned up nose and overall heart stopping beauty.
No man should be feeling like this going to
confession. Then she spoke with a heavenly husky
voice more mature than her teenage body.
'The priest says he is not hearing any more - go
to the next confessional'. He turned and did her
By the time he got out she was gone. He searched
the church, he searched the bicycle park, he
searched outside but all to no avail. She was
nowhere to be seen. Was she real or had he been
hallucinating? He thought he had reached Nirvana,
that they would talk for hours, that she would
feel the same as him but now nothing only a cold
winter's night. Was he being punished for falling
in love in church when he should have being
praying? Probably. He would pray at Midnight Mass.
He might as well become a monk if he could not
find this apparition again.
The church was magnificent, full of light, of
life, of music and packed with people but no
sign of his fantasy girl. The choir was singing
'Adeste Fideles'. There was a sort of magic
nostalgia about the whole scene, 'natum videte
regem angelorum' but no sign of his fantasy girl.
'Venite adoremus'. It was glorious, 'Dominum'.
Had he really seen her or had the lack of sleep
addled his mind? Maybe she was pure imagination
as nobody could be that beautiful, still no sign
of her. With glory, pomp, pageantry and ceremony
they finally got through the Mass, now the final
Silent night, holy night, should that be lonely
night? The solo singer was enchanting. All is
calm, all is bright, too calm and not so bright.
As the multitude slowly made their way out he
looked all around but she was nowhere to be
found. 'Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in
heavenly peace'. He certainly needed the sleep
but would he ever be at peace again?
At last he spotted her outside the church with an
older lady. She had been watching him and when
their eyes met her face lit up with the most
dazzling smile totally eclipsing even the vision
in his mind.
'Mammy' she said, 'this is the boy I told you
about, may I bring him home for breakfast?'
All his Christmases had come together.
He never saw London again.
'CHRISTMAS LOVE' is one of
sixty lyrical yarns from
'Original Irish Stories' by Pat Watson,
Creagh, Bealnamulla, Athlone, Ireland.
First published in May 2006.
or you can email the author here:
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GAELIC PHRASES OF THE MONTH
PHRASE: Nollaig faoi shean is faoi mhaise duit!
PRONOUNCED: Nullig fwee yan iss fwee mway/shih dwit
MEANING: A prosperous and enjoyable Christmas!
PHRASE: Nollaig Shona duit
PRONOUNCED: nullig hunna dwit
MEANING: Happy Christmas to you
PHRASE: Athblian shona duit
PRONOUNCED: ought/bleen hunna dwit
MEANING: Happy new year to you
View the archive of phrases here:
The winner was: CARMEL.JOHNSON@BTOPENWORLD.COM
who will receive the following:
A Single Family Crest Print (decorative)
Send us an email to claim your print, and well done!
Remember that all subscribers to this
newsletter are automatically entered into the
competition every time.
I hope that you have enjoyed this issue.
Until next month, HAPPY CHRISTMAS!
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