Nights draw ever colder; your breath lingers in the air a little longer than is usual and there’s talk of snow on the horizon. Everything you have heard is true; Christmas is fast approaching. We know another year is almost over and we feel so much wiser for it… Well, we will be by New Years!
If you are looking to take part in one of our renowned Belfast tours over the next few months, then you’re in for a treat. Ireland in winter is even more magical than it usually is. Sure, you can enjoy a pint of Guinness and dress up as much as you like, but our stunning landscapes and attractions look even more incredible when blanketed in snow and shrouded by crisp morning air.
Just like the rest of the world, Ireland has plenty of festive winter traditions that are both distinct and historic, while others are a little more obscure. As our Belfast tours celebrate the diverse nature of our country, we know a lot of you looking to book onto our various tours are coming from across the Irish Sea!
- Holly Wreaths – because holly can flourish in tough conditions and are native to Ireland, hanging a wreath of holly on your front door was a cheap and easy Christmas decoration, that even the least well-off families could afford.
- Christmas Eve Midnight Mass – The Irish are well-known for their dedication to the Church, and Christmas eve is no exception. It would often allow families and friends the first chance to catch up in many months.
- Single Lit Candle – Placing a lit candle in the window on Christmas eve was welcoming for Mary and Joseph. Later, this would also indicate a safe haven for Priests looking to perform mass.
- Laden Table – Similarly, setting a table with bread and milk and leaving your door unlocked was an invitation for Mary, Joseph and weary travellers to come in to rest a while.
- Attending horse racing on St Stephens Day (aka Boxing Day) is a popular tradition that still stands today. St. Stephen was the patron Saint of horses, so the races were in celebration.
- Taking decorations down before little Christmas (Jan 6th) was considered bad luck. This day would also involve wives taking the day off to relax while husbands would cook and clean.
- The oddest tradition, by far, is the Wren Boy Procession. Less popular in today’s culture, this involved a procession of dressing up and song from house to house to celebrate the wren – the “King of all Birds”. Legend has it that a wren alerted soldiers to an attack during Penal times. Today, some villages in Ireland still continue this tradition.
Finally, you won’t be surprised that the Irish like to go all out when it comes to Christmas dinner, much like the rest of the world. Traditional Irish additions to the meal include soda bread and smoked salmon, a roast ham, and cherry trifle alongside Christmas pud and brandy sauce.
If you feel like experiencing some of the infamous Irish hospitality this Christmas, as well as experience the holidays in another culture, then book your trip to Northern Ireland today. Our Belfast tours will keep you more than occupied in your spare time, and will transform your festive period into a holiday experience like no other!