Because we realize that some may be offended by Dan’s humorous twist on a traditional Irish Christmas, we’d like to assure you this is purely intended for entertainment purposes. In no way does this reflect the ideas, thoughts, or views of Ireland or the Irish by Tenon Tours.
When we asked our friend, Dan, who resides in Dublin, what Christmas meant to him, we didn’t expect this… but we did laugh. A lot.
The main thing to realize about a Traditional Irish Christmas is that it is really a fortnight (14-day) long Bacchanalian carnival. Some people attribute this to our Celtic heritage and the psychological importance of the Winter Solstice as demonstrated by the ancient tomb at Newgrange Co. Meath (google it). Others believe it’s because our deep Catholic faith rejoices at the birth of the savior. These are mere facades for what we all know to be true – it’s an excuse to get really pickled (intoxicated) on a daily basis. As everyone else will be half-cut to this gives us carte blanche to say and do what we like. There is also the added bonus of being nicely pickled while it is still bright out (always more fun, although I have no idea why). When you consider that daylight hours at this time of year are from 8.30 am to 4pm this is quite an achievement. I’ll give you a typical run down of the lead in to Christmas and the big day itself.
Shops start displaying Christmas decorations. People [complain] and moan about it happening too early but do a bit of sneaky shopping anyway.
People flock to hastily built poor quality hotels at motorway exits for the traditional office Christmas party. The time-honored tradition of sucking up to your boss and pretending to like him (plámássing as Gaeilge) takes on vital importance as he has the free-drink coupons and/or company credit card. I’m told infidelity and outrageous acts of drunkenness are expected at such events but I’m normally too busy surfing down a flight of stairs on an ironing board to notice.
College students finish their semester exams. Sales of cheap Bulgarian vodka surge. In a celebration of a traditional Irish Christmas buses and taxi ranks are filled with people singing the theme from the Budweiser and Coca Cola ads.
Two Sundays before Christmas (approximately)
: The first of the annual Christmas family rows occur as nobody can remember where the tree went last year and why we’d moved it to there from the year before. Who packed the lights away like this anyway?
Christmas pints with mates. This involves several hundred e-mails and texts trying to sort out where to meet for pints. Obviously these are the same people you manage to meet for a pint every weekend of the year with one phone call. Eventually a compromise venue is agreed upon on the basis of proximity to public transport. Everyone [complains] and moans about the venue then gets completely pickled and ends up missing the last bus/train anyway. With any luck there will be a few people home for Christmas from London or New York who will come along and bore us with tales of how Ireland is sooo passé.
Irish women finish wrapping their presents and place them under the tree.
Irish men begin their Christmas shopping.
In theory this is a full day of work, not a bank holiday or anything of the sort. In practice this involves people (apart from poor unfortunates in important jobs like nurses, shop assistants, policemen and barmen) showing their face in work early, making sure to have a chat with your boss at around 11am and then not coming back after lunch. Don’t worry, your boss will be sneaking off early too. Some time around 3pm people realize that either a) they have finished all their shopping or b) there is nothing but [expletive] left in the shops so I’ll just have to give my nephew cash/avoid my father for a month/take my girlfriend away for a New Year’s surprise “when all the fuss has died down” (and I’ve been paid again). Either way this auspicious occasion must be marked by a trip to the pub. The pub will be absolutely packed as the panic stricken Paddies realize that the pub will be closed on Christmas Day for one of only two days in the year. The other is Good Friday. So we close our pubs for the birth and death of Jesus. If he’s going to be resurrected anyway why not just leave them open?
At some stage on the evening of Christmas Eve you realize that for the last ten days you have subsisted on a diet of alcohol, paracetamol and mince pies. These have no mince in them at all just raisins, tiny bits of nuts and other random sweet things in a pastry case. At this point you’ll head home to your Mammy for a bit of decent food (and because you love her etc). In Cork this will be spiced beef (not spicy and rarely even beef) in Dublin it will be Vol-au-vents, Spring rolls and whatever else was left down the bottom of the freezer cabinet of the local supermarket. After a few hours of family hospitality it’s time to sneak off for a few quick pints before closing time.
Some poor sucker gets up early to put the turkey in the oven. Unless your exceptionally pretentious (where you eat goose) or a vegetarian (where you just eat chocolate and mashed potato all day) everyone in Ireland eats turkey. Obviously we don’t have Thanksgiving in Ireland although if we were ever to conduct a continent wide genocide of a proud indigenous people we, too, would surely give thanks for that. Kids do the whole Santa Claus thing and most people humor their elders by sitting through mass and making beautiful Christmas Carols sound like a mustard gas attack on a First World war trench.
After mass it is acceptable to be seen having a quick drink “for the day that’s in it”. Elderly aunts take advantage of this fact to down a third of a bottle of sherry before lunch – it’s a tradition after all.
The afternoon/evening becomes a blur semi-cooked and burnt food, wine, pudding (a combination of raisins, nuts and other random sweet things which – along with the tablecloth – is doused in brandy and ignited), port, ice cream, Christmas Cake (another combination of raisins, nuts etc, this time covered in icing with the flavor and consistency of dried wallpaper paste). Then the family gathers around to enjoy the classic Irish tradition of opening the top button of your trousers and falling asleep in front of the Harry Potter/James Bond/Indiana Jones movie. Then we wake for turkey and ham sandwiches and a tea.
In Ireland this is a Bank Holiday and is known as St Stephen’s Day (pronounced Stephenizzezzes day in Dublin). In Britain it is known as Boxing Day. Which is exactly what will happen to your face is you ever refer to it thus in Ireland. In the morning most people make some class of token gesture at exercise. This could be a walk in the park, a jog, a casual game of football or even a sponsored swim which I did one year. And one year only. Of course the best exercise of all goes to the lucky person who was so offensively drunk yesterday that they get stung with cleaning up the kitchen.
At this point sensible people will have earned a quick drink, which is ideal as the Horse Racing from Leopardstown will be on the TV. The real hardy ones will go to the local pub (provided it is right beside a bookies) and spend the day gambling away the money they forgot to give to their nephew the day before. And the weekend away money.
Whether you are interested in racing or not the pub will be jammed by about 8pm as two days of forced joviality with family drives people from their homes.
Theoretically work days, but see Christmas Eve for expected work etiquette. The Racing Festival continues until the 29th at which point people are frantically backing 50/1 shots in the hope of funding the overpriced New year’s Eve party they booked and don’t want to go to now. Everyone insists that New Years is over-hyped nonsense and that, next year, they are going to just take it easy and save their money. This never actually happens.
Another Bank Holiday (thank God) spent watching Bond movies. Only 10 and a half months until the madness recommences.
One last thought… Ireland never has a White Christmas, although all of their Christmas cards feature snow. Don’t be fooled, it’s just cold and drizzly.
Merry Christmas to all!
Thinking about visiting Ireland for Christmas? Find out the
best time to travel to Ireland.