'Nollaig Shona Duit’ from all of us here at Quillsen

by Marian McQuillan November-19-2018

We are really looking forward to Christmas here at Quillsen and as we are getting ready to hang our decorations in our offices around Dublin, we were wondering about the roots of these traditions. Some are very old Irish traditions that are not as popular anymore and some are still as strong as ever. To get into the Christmas spirit we thought we'd find out the history of these traditions.

Holly Wreath

Before the tradition of having a Christmas tree in Ireland, Irish people would decorate their houses with holly and ivy. If they found a holly bush with extra red berries they were considered lucky. The poor and better off would both have the same tradition. Holly grew in abundance at that time of year all over Ireland. It’s a tradition that is still very strong and is now a tradition all over the world.

The Candle in the window

The candle in the window was an Irish tradition that nearly died away. It was revived by President Mary Robinson as a symbol to remember the Irish emigrant that moved away from home. In older times in homes across Ireland the candle would symbolise that they welcome the Holy Family – unlike the inn keeper in the story of the birth of Jesus. It would mean the family of that house would welcome anybody that passed by their home. It also was a symbol during the penal law times that it was a place to hold Catholic Mass.

The Wren Boy

The wren boy was a tradition on St Stephens Day that was done in every town in Ireland at one time. A group of men usually, dressed up in cloaks and straw carrying swords called the wren boys would carry a dead sparrow on a pitch fork around the town. They would sing and collect money to bury the wren and would dance along the streets of the town until they found a holly bush to hang the wren. The money donated was usually given to schools or charities. There is a Celtic story and a Christian story behind this tradition. The Celtic story was that the wren gave up the hiding place of some soldiers fighting the Vikings by using its wings to beat their shields. The Christian story was the famous legend of the race of the eagle and the sparrow and the sparrow rising up to beat the strongest of birds the eagle.

The Laden Table

Lots of traditions have changed and evolved with the times. Leaving out mince pies and a bottle of Guinness on Christmas Eve is popular in Ireland today as a snack for Santa Clause. Traditionally after dinner on Christmas Eve Christmas cake was left on the dinner table with milk and a lit candle. The door to the kitchen was left open as a symbol to welcome Mary and Joseph or the wandering traveller.

Little Christmas

Little Christmas on the 6th January was another Irish tradition. Today it is usually the day to take down the Christmas decorations. In the past it was called Women’s Christmas. We may laugh today at this tradition but it was called this because it was a day given to women as a day of rest after the Christmas holiday so they could go out, meet with friends and relax. Men would take over the housework.

We hope you have a great Christmas filled with lots of great traditions and fun.

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