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Nollaig Shona Duit – Merry Christmas From Ireland

Stephen Piggott • Dec 24, 2008

As mentioned in a previous blog I wrote on Imagine 2050, I moved to the USA from Ireland in 1997. My family have become well immersed in American society but we still hold onto many traditions and customs from Ireland. During the Christmas period, there are many customs that we still practice. In my house, the excitement of Christmas morning and receiving gifts from Santa has been revived.

My father remarried about 3 years ago to an Irish woman who brought her 3 kids all under the age of 10 with her to live in our house. Since then my sister and my stepmother both have had children bringing the total number of kids to 7. The ages are 21, 20, 10, 10, 5, 1 and 4 months. So as you can imagine, our house is very noisy and Christmas day is no exception.

I have always loved the weeks leading up to Christmas because it is a time for family and even though all of our cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles are living in Ireland or England we still keep in touch, especially over the Christmas period. We receive countless cards each year from friends and family back home who we rarely see but haven’t forgotten us and we certainly haven’t forgotten them. All of the Christmas cards from Ireland have a festive stamp on them usually containing the words “Nollaig Shona Duit” which means merry Christmas in the Irish language, Gaelic.

Every year my grandparents send over selection boxes, which are big boxes of different types of Irish chocolate bars which I stuff my face with on Christmas morning. A few days before Christmas we make Christmas pudding which is a heavy steamed pudding filled with dried fruit. The tradition is that each member of the family must stir the pudding mix before it is cooked and while you are stirring you make a wish. After Christmas dinner, the pudding is brought out and doused in brandy and then lit on fire as everyone applauds and the kids blow the cake out before we eat it.

Every Christmas Eve we make mince pies. Mince pies are small pastries filled with mincemeat which is a thick preservative made with sultanas, raisins, and apples. We leave the mince pies out for Santa along with a pint of Guinness or if he is very lucky, a glass of whiskey. Before going to bed on Christmas Eve we watch the Christmas special of English and Irish comedies like Only Fools and Horses, Father Ted, and the Royle Family.

After this the kids go to sleep, we wrap the presents and put them under the tree for the next morning. Usually at about 6am or earlier on Christmas morning my step brothers bust into my room with my step sister and jump on my bed to wake me up. My dad then has to go downstairs before any of the kids can to check if Santa has come. When he gives the signal, all of the kids run downstairs to open the presents. After the mad scramble of opening all of the presents is finished, we bring out Christmas crackers which we take turns pulling. The winner usually gets a paper hat small toy. We spend the next few hours calling our family in Ireland and asking them what presents they got from Santa. After a huge Christmas dinner, the rest of the day and following days are spent quietly with my family and family friends.

Christmas is my favorite time of year and my family have continued our Christmas traditions in the country we now call home. I encourage everyone to make the most out of this Christmas period with your family and have a great holiday wherever you may be.

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