Monday, December 8, 2008

Off to the Emerald Isle!

Ahhh, Ireland! The one place I would love to visit for a year! I'm a European mutt so you may get more information about the European countries that you every wish to know but I promise I'll try not to bore you. (Did I mention that I should have a guest post for Germany? Stay Tuned!!)

Now a little poll for you? How many of you put candles in your windows? Did you know that that is an invitation for strangers to enter in Ireland? Ok, maybe not "invitation" but it is traditionally an indication that strangers are welcome - perhaps a nod to the inkeeper in the Nativity story.

Much of the decorations put up during the season are natural. True pine wreaths, holly branches and sprigs, pine cones, ivy and definitely a real Christmas tree are all among the decor for the season. This may account for my love of wreaths and garland in my decorating (althought mine are all fake - oops). And if you have a Nativity may I suggest that you consider adding an Irish tradition this year? When did Jesus truly arrive on the scene? On Christmas Eve, correct? In Ireland they wait until Christmas Eve or even Christmas morning to put Jesus in the manger.

The day after Christmas is called St. Stephen's Day in honor of St. Stephen, the first martyr in the Christain faith. In South Ireland it would not be uncommon to see "Wren Boys" on St. Stephen's Day. Originally it was a day of hunting wrens because of the legend that a wren is the tattletale who gave away Stephen's location to those who were hunting him. Then it became a day for young men (think frat boys here) to dress up in straw outfits and march from home to home drumming and playing whistles and reciting the poem:

"The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,
On St. Stephen's Day was caught in the furze,
Although he is little, his family is great,
I pray you, good landlady, give us a treat."

Originally they would be given a penny or some pittance from the home which they then put toward a party! That was sincerely frowned on by the church so now the Wren Boys collect for charities.

Now here is a tradition I found that all women should embrace regarless of their ethnic background! January 6th (no, not Dia De Los Reyes!) is called "Women's Christmas." It is the day that all the decorations come down and the season is closed. But here's why I say we should all embrace it - the men give the women the day off! That's right ladies! The men take down the decorations and clean up the holiday mess. All in favor? Unfortunately for us it didn't really stick and women do get honored but still pretty much do the work - but you don't have to tell your family that!!

Now what would our stop be without a nod to all the food? As a starter you would see smoked salmon or prawns. Then you have goose or turkey with all the trimmings (potatoes of course!) and the finishers would be Christmas (plum) pudding or mince pies. On a side note, mince pies and a Guinness are the traditional offerings for Santa as well as some apples or veggies for the reindeer.

After dinner it is traditional to see a Pantomime or go to the horse races. Although the truly brave souls head for water and go for a Christmas swim. Only in Ireland!!

**Information was heavily gleaned from DoChara, an absolutely fabulous site that made me fall even more in love with Ireland!**


Staci said...

I would love to visit Ireland some day, such beautiful landscape, and the accents, I would swoon every time I heard a man speaking over there.

I'm declaring a Women's Christmas this year, or at least I'll try!

Amanda said...

We're a partially good Irish family. We leave Guinness for Santa.

jennifer said...

I have to play Santa by myself this year, and while I don't like Guiness, maybe I should adopt something similar this year!

I'm going to Ireland one day. No if, ands or buts about it. =)