Preparations Past and Present

Of all the Christian festivals in Ireland, Christmas is considered to be the most important. An Irish Christmas lasts from Christmas Eve until January 6th, the Feast of Epiphany, or “Little Christmas.”  

Whitewashing the house: In many rural areas there was a tradition of whitewashing the house. The women would scrub and polish everything, and the men would take a bucket of whitewash and purify everything in honour of the coming of Christ. 

This custom goes back long before Christianity or Celtic civilization. It was a purifying ceremony from the most ancient of times, the ancient Mesopotamians; 4000BC would cleanse their homes, in an attempt to assist their god in his battle against the powers of chaos. 

Decorations: Holly was placed behind every picture on the wall, along the mantelpiece over the fireplace and behind the plates on the dresser. 

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. 

Berry holly was prized as was long ivy tendrils which were used to make garlands. Loose holly and ivy, and laurel leaves were added using a packing needle and twine. A few days before Christmas, some of the family went to town to “bring home the Christmas.”

CANDLE IN THE WINDOW

Many homes in Ireland still today will show a lighted candle a light in the window lighted the way of a stranger out after dark. It goes back to most ancient times To have a light in your window on Christmas Eve to welcome the stranger meant that you were welcoming the Holy Family too. To have no light meant that you shared the guilt of the Innkeeper at Bethlehem who said, “No Room”!

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