I sometimes forget that not everyone who reads this, celebrates Christmas like we do here in Ireland. So I’ll give you a brief insight into my day and I’d love an insight into yours. Feel free to comment or to share a link to your Christmas post in the comments. I’d love to read them.
Firstly here are a few facts about Christmas in Ireland as I know it.
1. Christmas is not just one day here. For most it begins on December 23rd and ends Monday January 4th, a mere twelve days later.
2. If it is remotely possible sons and daughters, irrespective of age, migrate ‘home’. There is an unwritten rule, (that most men do not discover until after marriage), that Christmas means going to her family home two out of every three years at least.
4. Santa comes to the majority, with children often enjoying the ‘magic of Christmas’up to twelve years of age. Either we are very gullible over here or we learn to lie early in life.
5. I was born into a Catholic family like the majority of the population. Each Christmas, many just like me, who are unfamiliar with the inside of their local church, make their way to Mass.
6. Priests are so thrilled to see a packed church that they do their best to try ensure the moment never ends. The result is a mass twice as long as the usual Sunday affair.
7. Families gather Christmas morning and there is a big present opening ceremony. Some do this later in the evening, although the build up of alcohol over the day can lessen acting ability when we unwrap a present we are less than impressed with, which in turn may lead to offence being taken.
8. Christmas dinner is usually anytime from 3pm onwards and most eat stuffed turkey and ham accompanied by mashed potatoes, roast potatoes, and a variety of veg. Dessert is christmas pudding or some other rich, heavy dessert, just to finish you off.
9. After dinner there is a lull/collapse, followed by a night of more drinking and games in many houses until the very late hours.
I must admit, while I dislike shopping and cleaning, I do love Christmas. I’ve a million happy memories of great childhood Christmases and love seeing my own children excited and happy. Our day will begin with the youngest, aged 13, insisting we all get up at about 7.30 am. As she is the youngest the other three do as they are asked, even if they’ve been out the night before. Lining up from youngest to oldest they go down to see what Santa has brought. If anyone wonders if Santa is real, come to my house, where they tell me, ‘He comes to you as long as you believe’. My eldest is twenty four and as you might have guessed, she still ‘believes’.
After the madness of Santa there is a quick breakfast and then a rush to wrap up warm, ready to brave the elements to remember Daniel. A big gang (possibly over 100 this year) will head to the beach for a Christmas day swim, (yes you read that properly, the beach… Christmas day… in Ireland). Even though I am an ex swimmer of amazing ability (ahem) I, along with Daniel’s mum, aunt and a couple of friends, will provide hot chocolate, soup and even an Irish coffee or two to anyone who swims. It is of course so tempting each Christmas to get changed into swim gear in the wind and cold, dash into the freezing waters and come back out to get dressed in public, but for Daniel and his family I’ll make the sacrifice. Yes I’m a true friend who believes in the spirit of Christmas!
After we have said our happy Christmases and perhaps shed a tear for the young boy who would have loved the madness so much, we head home. I’ll have a glass of wine, as it’s never too early on Christmas day, then I’ll check the turkey hoping all is well. Despite all the advice in the world my method of cooking turkey as big as a house is simple. I coat it in butter and streaky rashers, cover it with tin foil and baste it once in a blue moon when I remember. Works a treat.
While the turkey is doing it’s thing I’ll have another glass of wine and we open the presents under the tree. This is a very ceremonial process, no grabbing your gifts and ripping the paper off them for us. Each person watches, as one at a time we open a present; it takes almost as long as the turkey.
Dinner is traditional. Usually it is just the six of us, as the rest of my family live a couple of hundred miles away. After dinner we will go to a friends house to enjoy a night of fun and games and perhaps a few more glasses of wine.
With all of this ahead of us I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy Christmas. I hope you have a good one and remember… Santa comes to all who believe.