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    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 supressed and it is
    perhaps because of that they have survived into modern


    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 an 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 not allowed.

    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'.


    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 welcome.


    During Penal Times there was once a plot in a vilage 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.
    In olden times an actual wren would be killed and placed on
    top of the pole.

    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.


    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 dwellings.

    All decorations are traditionally taken down on Little
    Christmas (January 6th.) and it is considered to be bad luck
    to take them down beforehand.


    The Gaelic greeting for 'Merry Christmas' is:
    'Nollaig Shona Duit'
    ......which is pronounced as 'null-ig hun-a dit'.


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