Irish Culture: Irish Christmas Traditions

A round up our favourite Irish Christmas traditions to get you into the festive spirit!


Christmas Swims

The most spine-chilling of Christmas traditions. Every year on Christmas day, hundreds of people across Ireland start their day by dunking themselves into the cold waters of December.The biggest swim takes place in the forty foot at Dun Laoghaire peer, people turn up in their droves each to strip down and dive into the festive spirit. That’s one way to work up an appetite.

Culchie Day

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which takes place on the 8th of December is a national holiday day in the Republic of Ireland, but has long been known as the affectionately named Culchie day. This was traditionally the day where people from the countryside made the long trip up to Dublin to do their Christmas shopping. The word Culchie is used by Dublin people as a term of endearment (or derogation, whatever way you want to swing it) for anybody living outside of the big shmoke. The day is characterised by hoards of people scrambling to get all their shopping done, an influx of wildy exotic accents in the city and the indelible meeting point underneath the clock at Cleary’s. Sadly though these days of excitement are coming to an end due to the rise of internet shopping and the dying out of the tradition.

Eating Potatoes

Christmas in lreland is much less a celebration of the birth of Christ but rather a nationwide competition of how many possible reincarnations of the common potato you can fit in one meal. It is imperative that there are at least three potato dishes at the table. The classic boiled and the humble roastie are staples and mashed is a good crowd pleaser but its up to you how creative you want to get with the things. My own mother loves a good garlic gratin but she’s very fancy all together.  Just none of your yams now.

Midnight Mass

The well-worn tradition of attending midnight mass on Christmas eve. But be warned, contrary to its title, Christmas mass does not take place at midnight but some time after the usual realm of mass times. The man himself, Santy has also been known to make an appearance or at the very least a

Giving Santy Brandy

I believe our friends over in the States are known to leave out milk and cookies for the hungry Santa Claus. However the Irish Santy has no interest in such things, he’ll have none other than your finest Brandy and perhaps a couple of roses if you have them.

Nollaig na mban – Women’s Christmas

Women’s Christmas (or Nollaig na Mban in Gaelic) takes place on the 6th of January and was traditionally the day where the women of the house took a day off from cooking and cleaning and it was the men’s turn to cook. This also tends to be the day the Christmas decorations are taken down.

Watching My Left Foot

Or whatever the offering of Irish made and produced films are showing on RTE. The more morbid the better. The Magdalene Sisters, Song for a Raggy Boy and Angela’s Ashes top our list of miserable Irish films. Bonus points if it involves any kind of scandal. Sure what is the festive season for if not a healthy dose of desolation?


A Christmas Day walk

What better way to get your appetite going for the big feast but getting out and about for a brisk morning walk on Christmas Day?

Have we left out any of your favourite Irish Christmas traditions? If so, we’d love to hear all about them in the comments section! For more information on walking and cycling in Ireland or to request a quote contact our travel specialists.


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