About Me

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New York State
Wife to an Irish import from Drogheda and Mother to two beautiful children and one fluffy white cat.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Olde Time Christmas Traditions

This is how Christmas was celebrated by my Mothers family growing up in the lovely County of Mayo. The house was decorated with streamers, Holly and the Christmas cards received from family and friends in England, America and other places. (A ha! this is why my mother is always after me to get my cards out!)
For the Christmas goodies they went to the local shop and the traveling shop which came around to the house and the family would receive a Christmas box which was a thank you for shopping with them during the year. In the box would be a pound of tea, sugar, biscuits and bairin breac (which is a sweet bread with raisins and sultanas) and maybe a sweet or two. (Wouldn't it be nice if the shops gave out something to its patrons nowadays?).
For Christmas eve in the country there were lighted candles in every window and they left the door open(not just unlocked, I am talking wide open!) no matter if it was raining, snowing or cold, there was a roaring fire and something left out to eat, in case Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus were passing by and needed a place to stay. However at the stroke of midnight the stockings would be hung and the fire would be dashed so Santa could come down the chimney! Sure enough come morning the stockings would be full with things like an orange, an apple, a balloon, a ball, a hankie, a pencil and maybe some sweets. (What! no high priced toys and the kids were still happy! unheard of these days! LOL!) Mom said that orange smelled soo good but they couldn't eat it because they had to fast until after Communion.
In the early Christmas days they had a roast goose with all the trimmings and of course plum pudding (way too much like fruitcake for me but every year my husband tries to get me to eat it!) and custard. Then they would go about visiting relatives.
On St. Stephens day the boys went around with a wren which is a bird for all those who don't know (Mom said that alot of times it was just a potato as it is hard to catch a wren LOL! and Dad (from Co. Clare) says he used to go around with just a nest most of the time for the same reason LOL!) anyway the boys would go around to peoples doors and sing "The wren the wren the king of the birds! May I have a penny to bury the wren?" Needless to say they got more than a penny especially from relatives and it was a pretty lucrative holiday tradition.
My Christmas wish to you all is to keep the real Christmas spirit alive and know that it is not about the amount you spend on the pressies and all the stress that goes with it but about family tradition and togetherness. Have a very Merry Christmas, I hope all your celebrations are bright.


  1. Merry Christmas, I love this post!

  2. Great story! It brings back many happy memories of days gone by.

  3. From Aunty Kathleen (England)

    They were fun times. Your mother and I use to love it when the Strawboys came. They were boys who wore masks, wierd costumes and straw hats. They would come into the house and dance for you with an accompanying accordian player. Then you would give them a bit of money- they were good times, kind-of!! Although, when we were small we were perfrified of them, they were so scary so we would run into the back room and peek at them through the door.

  4. LOL! I can see why that would be kind of scary! But fun too!