Many families opt to stay home for Christmas. Whether we journey back to our parents’ house, our spouses’ parents’ house, or if family members come to us – Christmas is a very “homey” holiday. Despite this, more and more families are separated by time and distance. Our parents live not only in a different town, or state – but maybe a different country altogether. This is true for those millennials who had to go very far to find a career or get an education.
The truth is, “home” will never be the same or as close after a separation like that. We become lazy. I will never forget the year my sister who studied in Italy said: “can’t we just meet somewhere in the middle?”.
Increasingly, “the middle” is becoming a popular idea. There are more and more hotels and resorts that welcome Christmas travelers with a big menu and many attractions. Destination Christmas, like destination weddings, is becoming a “normal” in our vocabulary.
A big reason for this is that for many overworked people, getting time off for the holidays is the only realistic time off they’re going to see all year. Let’s make the most of it! If you’re going to travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to see family, why not travel to let’s say… Ireland?
Ireland is on the list of Christmas places to visit today, because of it’s warm and welcoming traditions and the availability of things to do and enjoy while visiting. It’s the perfect destination Christmas trip, probably because the Irish are very family-centric and really know how to make the winter night light up with warmth, and there are so many things to do in Dublin (and not only in Dublin!) that will make your Christmas feel more special than you can ever expect.
Traditions vs. New Customs
Every family has their own holiday customs, and it can be difficult to let go of them while you travel. Ireland has some customs that have been adapted in other places, especially in America, where the population that can claim Irish descent numbers more than 10 million people. Here are some things you may encounter, and maybe adopt yourself:
- Candle in the window – This symbol of hospitality is to remind people of the plight of Joseph and Mary and their search for shelter. In the olden times, the candle was a signal that charity was given inside, and the poor could knock in hopes of getting something to eat. It was also a symbol for Catholic Priests to come inside and perform mass during the Penal Times.
- Decorations – Ring of holly is a traditional Irish wintertime decoration that has crept into many other cultures.
- Christmas Swim – The Christmas swim is a great tradition and something you might consider doing if you want to remember this holiday forever. Many people who come to dip in the sea on freezing Christmas Day do it for charity. You can find Christmas swims in Bray, Bundoran, Carlingford, Dublin, Rosslare and many, many more.
Places to Visit
- A Pub – many Irish pubs celebrate Christmas eve with special drinks, music and their own traditions. We recommend the Stag’s Head in Dublin, simply because it is the best preserved Victorian pub in the city. And who gave us traditional Christmas if not the Victorians?
- The Hole in the Wall – it’s a little restaurant and pub in Dublin that spends months decorating for Christmas – better go and see it before it’s over!
- A Church – even if you’re not religious or even a Catholic, a Christmas mass is something to behold and to experience. The choir and the decorations will take your breath away – we recommend St. Teresa’s Clarendon Street Carmelite Church.
Festive Irish Food
- Spiced Beef – although not many have heard of it, it is especially popular in Cork. The taste is very traditional and dates back when meat was preserved with sugar and spices. Trust us, it’s way more traditional than corned beef!
- Turkey or Goose – large roast birds are very popular in Ireland, just as they are in the US and in England. This is a tradition that has its roots in the Elizabethan era. In fact, if you happen to be American, Christmas dinner will probably feel a lot like Thanksgiving with stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberries and gravy.
- Irish Christmas Cake – This is something that is personal, and everyone has their own family recipe for. If you’re in Ireland for the holidays you will undoubtedly come into contact with it. They often contain brandy, fruits, icing, marzipan – but most importantly candied fruit and more candied fruit!
Nollaig Shona Duit! Have you celebrated Christmas somewhere besides ‘home’?