Meeting my husbands’ parents for the first time was in Ireland over Christmas break in College. It was daunting to say the least. My husband, Luke, had one rule from his mum when he went to school in America – “Don’t date an American.” It sounds harsh but the truth is she knew all too well that he could very well date, marry, and move to the U.S. which was about 3,000 miles away from them and most of their entire extended family. (Here’s why we made the jump to Ireland)
Flying to his home in Ireland was a really big deal. The visit wasn’t easy – I was unexpectedly faced with many cultural differences that proved to rip my mental state into tatters. Now that I have a few more visits under my belt and are now in their family, I notice those cultural differences and appreciate the beauty of the Irish Culture (instead of just crying about it).
I still have a lot to learn and will obviously go through a whole host of new emotions as we set out to move there in mere months BUT here are 5 things I learned about how the Irish (at least my Irish family) celebrate Christmas:
1. Christmas Day Church Service
I was surprised to find that many people go to church on Christmas morning in Ireland. In the States it’s common to go to a Christmas Eve service. I think you’d really struggle to get people to church on Christmas morning – at least where I’m from!
On Christmas morning my in-laws opened half of their presents and then stopped, got dressed and left for church! Inside I was thinking,“No no no! We have to stay in our pjs and eat cinnamon rolls!” – so American of me. (Click here to check out my 2020 Christmas Gift Guide)
2. Jump in the Irish Sea
After church we drove to Greystones South Beach and I watched as a bunch of people ran into the Irish Sea (I haven’t made the plunge yet)! All over Ireland thousands of people run into the cold water! In December the water temp is usually around 40-50F. It’s baltic but a tradition that I can really get behind!
3. Day Drinking
Another great part of Irish culture is the drinking! We got back from church and my mother in-law was hardly through the door and cracked open a bottle of Baileys. It wasn’t even lunch time yet, but who am I to say no to a glass of Baileys??
4. Crackers With Dinner
I had no idea what a Christmas Cracker was – I thought it was something to eat! To my surprise its a table decoration that when pulled apart makes a snapping noise and contains a gift, paper crown and a joke! Gifts range from a mini deck of cards, finger traps, pins, and mini ornaments! Commonly, you hold one end of the cracker and the person next to you holds the other side and you pull! Its good craic!
5. Saint Stephen’s Day
Saint Stephen’s Day is the day after Christmas commonly known in the States as Boxing Day. Stephen’s Day commemorates Saint Stephen, the first Martyr of Christianity.
The UK more often refers to Stephens day as Boxing Day and most countries recognize the day after Christmas as a holiday! Irish families use this holiday to visit friends and family all over Ireland! My husband travels up north to see his grannies, cousins, aunts and uncles!
Ireland is a rich culture full of beautiful landscapes and friendly people. One thing is for sure, I can’t wait to experience more Irish traditions and incorporate them into our family life. Better believe next Christmas I’ll be jumping into the Irish Sea! Now, who’s with me!?