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The Ireland List Christmas Page

An Irish Christmas Toast

"May peace and plenty be the first to lift the latch on your door, And happiness be guided to your home by the candle of Christmas."

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This site is not planned to be ready until the Christmas Season of 2001 is upon us... however we offer this "Sneak Peak" of the page in order to get the Members thinking along the lines of what to suggest for this section of the site.

What will be found on these pages

On these Christmas Pages for the Ireland Mail List and Ireland Mail List Web Site, you will find such things as:

Irish Christmas Recipes

Irish Christmas Cake

I wondered if you could use this Irish Christmas Bread receipe for your Christmas receipes. It was brought to Boston by my Grandmother, Johanna Kelliher, from Killarney, Ireland in 1881. My youngest sister revised it in 1981 so we could understand the receipe better.Here goes!

In container of very warm water soak: (use about 3 cups water)

1 box or 2 cups raisins
1 box or 2 cups dried currants

Into a very large mixing bowl or old fashioned bread mixer put:

1 scant cup white sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
1/4 cup molasses
2 whole eggs
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 to 1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 to 1 tsp nutmeg

Stir all of the above together and then sitr in

3 pkg. dry yeast that have been dissolved in one cup warm water

When yeast is stirred into above add raisins and currants and their cooled-to-lukewarm-liquid to the ingredients in the bowl.

Approximately 12 cups of white flour must be thorooughly stirred into the mixture. Add at least 6 cups of flour all at once and beat well. Add additional flour in 2 cup amounts until dough is stiff but not dry. When enough flour is mixed in, knead thorougly. Then place in large vessel and cover with waxed paper. Set the container in a warm, draft free place. When doubled in bulk, punch it down and shape into loaves. (yield 4 to 5 loaves (9"x5").

Cover loaf pans with waxed paper and towel and set aside to rise. When doubled in bulk, put into a preheated 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. Lower heat to 350 and continue baking 20 to 30 minutes. Bread is done when it is fully away from sides of pan and sounds hollow if tapped on the top. Cool loaves completely on wire rack before slicing or wrapping.

This does take a while to make but those to whom I have given a loaf love it! My mom made it every Christmas when we were growing up.

Submitted by: kate hazelton

Irish Christmas Cake

Citron 1 lb.
Candied orange and lemon peel, combined, 1/2 lb.
Dates, 1/2 lb.
Glace cherries, 1/2 lb.
Raisins, 3 3/4 Cup.
Currants, 2 3/4 Cup.
Almonds and pecans, combined, coarsely chopped, 1 lb.
Brandy, 3/4 Cup
Brown sugar, 1 lb.
Butter, softened, 1 lb.
Egg yolks, beaten until thick, 15
All-purpose flour, sifted, 4 Cups
Cinnamon, 1 Tbsp.
Cloves, 1 Tbsp.
Allspice, 1 Tbsp.
Nutmeg, 1 Tbsp.
Mace, 1 1/2 tsp.
Egg whites, beaten until stiff, 15
Chop the citron, orange and lemon peels, dates and cherries.

(Reserve a few cherry halves for decoration.) Add the raisins, currants, almonds, and pecans.

(Reserve a few nut halves for decoration.)

Pour on the brandy and let the fruits marinate while preparing the rest of the ingredients.
Cream the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the beaten egg yolks, gradually beating constantly.
reserve 1 cup of the flour and sift the remaining 3 cups with the spices.
Add the sifted ingredients gradually to the butter mixture, beating well after each addition.
Fold in the egg whites carefully.
Sprinkle the fruits with the reserved 1 cup of flour and mix well.
Fold the fruits into the batter.
Oil and line a 12-inch springform pan with waxed paper.
Place batter in pan and bake in 300 degree F. oven with pans of hot water in bottom of the oven, for 2 1/2 hours. Cool the cake and wrap in cheesecloth that has been soaked in brandy.
Place in airtight container and store until ready to use. Every 3 weeks, re-dip the cheesecloth wrapper in brandy.

Before decorating, glaze the top and sides of the cake with either apricot jam, thinned with a little water or red currant jelly. This will help the marzipan to adhere to the cake sides.

Almond Paste

3 (9 oz.) cans almond paste

Form 2 cans of the almond paste into a ball.
Place on lightly sugared or floured board and roll into a rectangle 1/8 inch thick. (The width of the rectangle should match the height of the sides of the cake. The length should match the circumference.)
Circle the cake with the almond paste and trim the edges to fit perfectly.
Roll the remaining paste into a circle the size of the top of the cake.
Place the circle on the cake and trim.
Let the almond paste dry overnight.
Ice with Royal Icing

Royal Icing

egg whites, 2
Lemon juice, 1 Tbsp.
Confectioners' sugar, 1 lb.

Beat the egg whites with the lemon juice until they are the consistency of cream.
Beat in the sugar a little at a time. Continue beating,
scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally, until the icing is smooth and shiny. It will be very stiff.
Cover the bowl with a damp cloth if the icing is not to be used immediately.
Cover the almond paste with a thin layer of icing.
Dip the knife in hot water if the icing is difficult to spread.

To decorate the cake, form peaks on the sides and edges of the top of the cake with the remaining icing using the tip of a knife.

Instead of Almond paste I have been recenly informed about marzipan.

Here is the recipe for marzipan.

Marzipan has been used for centuries by pastry chefs all over the world. It can be used in baking and for covering and filling cakes. Marzipan looks fabulous for colorful cake decorations and figurines. Marzipan has to have at least 25 % almonds otherwise it is considered almond paste. A thin layer of Marzipan can be used to cover a cake. Colored it can replace the need for frosting. It is also used under Fondant, much like apricot glaze to protect the Fondant from moisture.

Both recipe call for extra fine ground blanched almonds. In commercial bakeries the almonds are finely grounded by passing them through granite rollers. The finer the almonds the better your results will be.

The uncooked Marzipan is kneaded together until smooth and is then stored in an airtight container or plastic bag over night.

For cooked Marzipan add the sugar to the water in a saucepan and cook until the sugar is dissolved. Add the almonds and cook it until the batter stops sticking to the pan. Remove from heat and place onto a marble slap, wooden board or a sheet pan. While still warm knead first with a wooden spatula and then by hand until smooth. Store in an airtight container or plastic bag.

Marzipan can be softened by adding small amounts of syrup to it, if too soft add additional powdered sugar to it.

Basic Recipe:

Marzipan uncooked
1/4 pound ground blanched almonds
1/4 pound powdered sugar
1 egg white
1/4 tsp. salt

Marzipan cooked

3 cups sugar
1 cup water
4 cups ground blanched almonds

If you like the santas on this page, you can see more Irish Christmas stuff at Irish Christmas Site. Please note that this is not to be considered advertising for the items on this page.. we only are mentioning that you can see more Irish Christmas stuff at this site. :)

CHRISTMAS IN IRELAND

Author Unknown

Ireland remembers the Christian elements of the festival particularly. However, these customs are steeped in the mysteries of older times. Between the introduction of Christianity to Ireland in the 5th century, and the infiltrations from the English in the late middle ages, there is little written about Christmas in Ireland.

In 1171, the English King, Henry II took Christmas festivities to Ireland. He essentailly went there to get the Irish chiefs to swear allegiance to the English Crown, and on finding them very agreeable, so history tells us, he had a huge hall built, in traditional Irish style, in a village near Dublin, called Hogges. There he laid on a sumptuous feast, introducing the Irish to the customs of tournaments, Christmas plays, mumming and masking etc.

Most of the references are in annals recording visits of Kings and nobles, and tell us little about the people and their customs. The 19th and early 20th century writers have done more to build a picture of Irish Christmas than anyone. Stories which invite the reader inside the homes and farmsteads of Irish families, and share with them the preparations for |Christmas, which have been a part of this hidden Ireland for centuries. A few of the more traditional customs are listed below.

CANDLE IN THE WINDOW

Many homes in Ireland still today will show a lighted candle, or perhaps todays equivilent, and much safer, electric lights, in the window of their home on Christmas Eve. This stems from the custom that to show a light in the window lighted the way of a stranger out after dark. It goes back to most ancient times, when the laws of hospitality were stronger and not abused. To have a light in your window on Christmas Eve to welcome the stranger meant that you were welcoming the Holy Family too. To have no light meant that you shared the guilt of the Innkeeper at Bethlehem who said, "No Room"!

WHITEWASHING THE HOUSE

In many rural areas of Ireland still today the custom of whitewashing the outhouses and stores prevails. At One time, it was the whole farm, inside and out. The women would scrub and polish everything til it shone, and the men would take a bucket of whitewash, or limewash, and purify everything in honour of the coming of the Christchild.

This custom goes back long before christianity or even celtic civilisation. It was a purifying ceremony from the most ancient of times, the ancient Mesopotamians, 4000BC would cleanse their homes, sweep the streets even, in an attempt to assist their god in his battle against the powers of chaos. And in Central European lore, it was believed that the deity, Frigg, would check all the threshholds of each house to make sure they were swept clean. The links are so tightly intertwined, it becomes difficult to seperate one belief from another, Christmas is like a Tapestry, tightly and colourfully woven. It is almost impossible to find a thread and trace it to its beginning in the picture. From this ancient custom comes the modern traditions of putting up fresh curtains, a special Christmas Bedcover, cushions and table linens etc. The whitewashing of the house.

The First Noel in Gaelic

An Chéad Nollaig

An Chéad Nollaig Mhór, bhí cor aingeal Dé
Sa spéir go ceolmhar a fogairt dea-scéil
Mbun cúraim a dtréad, bhí aoirí na mbán
'S d'airíodar an scéala, dea-mhéinne 'gus grá

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Rugadh an lá so Rí Iosrael

Do dhearcadar i gcéin, an réalt lonnrach breá
In oirthear an spéire, gan néal gan scáth
Agus líon an saol, de ghlé-sholas óir
'S lean uirthi a soilsiú, idir oíche 'gus ló

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Rugadh an lá so Rí Iosrael

Do bhreoigh an réalt, triúir éigeas gan cháim
thíortha i gcéin, thar sliabh 'gus thar má
A d'iarraidh an Rí, bhí 'na soithe mór-chlú
'S do lean siad de shíor, an rinn réilteann iúil

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Rugadh an lá so Rí Iosrael

The First Noel

The first Noel, the angel did say,
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;
In fields where they lay keeping their sheep,
On a cold winter's night that was so deep.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
Born is the King of Israel.

They looked up and saw a star
Shining in the East, beyond them far;
And to the earth it gave great light,
And so it continued both day and night.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
Born is the King of Israel.

And by the light of that same star,
Three wise men came from country far;
To seek for a King was their intent,
And to follow the star wherever it went.

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
Born is the King of Israel.

This star drew night to the northwest,
O'er Bethlehem it took its rest;
And there it did both stop and stay,
Right over the place where Jesus lay.

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
Born is the King of Israel.

Irish Christmas

Of all the Christian festivals in Ireland, Christmas is considered to be the most important. An Irish Christmas lasts from Christmas Eve until January 6th, the Feast of Epiphany, or "Little Christmas." Preparations begin weeks in advance. There is the physical preparation of foods and gifts, decorating the home, and also a spiritual preparation that begins with the start of Advent--additional prayers added to the morning and evening devotions, the children urged to say extra Paters and Aves.

In bygone days, everyone, lapsed or faithful, was expected to attend chapel during the Advent season. On farms, a thorough cleaning of the house and farmyard ensued, including the whitewashing of the house, inside and out. Barns and outbuildings received an outside coat. Women scrubbed the house till it gleamed, scoured every pot and pan, laundered all garments and table linens. To children fell the task of gathering and making decorations for the house. Alice Taylor, in her An Irish Country Diary, wrote:

"There was the going to the wood for the holly and peeling the ivy off the bark of the old trees and looking forward to decorating the house, which we were free to do exactly as we pleased.... My father was dispatched to pick out the largest turnip from the turnip pit and we scrubbed it clean and then he bored a hole to take the tall white candle. My mother always insisted on red berry holly for the candle."

Berry holly was prized as was long ivy tendrils which were used to make garlands. Loose holly and ivy, and laurel leaves were added using a packing needle and twine. A few days before Christmas, some of the family went to town to "bring home the Christmas." The Christmas Market (Margadh Mór--Big Market) found country people bringing butter, eggs, hens, geese, turkeys--though turkey has only recently become a popular festival food--, vegetables and other f arm produce, and exchanging these for their Christmas purchases. Shopkeepers made presents of seasonal dainties to their customers.

The Christmas Market provided much goodwill and excitement from the street stalls and sideshows. Publicans enjoyed a brisk business.

Christmas Eve

Christmas was a family affair. Sons and daughters working away from home were expected to spend time with their parents, especially Christmas Eve. All tried to finish their work early in order to reach home before nightfall. The last of the preparations were concluded, usually for the next day's feast--the most plentiful and extravagant one of the year.

Roast or boiled beef seems to have been the most popular Christmas dish, with roast goose next. A boiled ox head was a favorite dish in Counties Armagh, Tyrone, and Monaghan.

Shortly after dark a large candle, often in a sconce made from a turnip, was placed in a prominent window and lighted to show the Holy Family that there was room and a welcome in that house. The candle would be extinguished at dawn, before going to the early Mass, or if the family was fire conscious, at midnight upon retiring. In some households, candles would be lit for the family members as well.

The traditional Christmas Eve meal consisted of fish, usually hake or cod with creamed potatoes. This was a fast day, and often no food was taken until the main meal.

After the candle was lit, the real celebration began. The iced Christmas cake, for weeks primed with good Irish whiskey, was cut, and tea was poured. The children enjoyed sweets around the fire until it was time for prayers and bed. Sometime during the night, the rotund visitor made an appearance, and children woke to stockings filled with an assortment of practical but welcome gifts.

Christmas Day

Christmas Day began with several family members attending early Mass, often before daylight. Boys in some parts, brought hurleys to church for a game afterward. But in most communities, Christmas was a family festival where people remained at home following the Mass, enjoying the quiet gathering and the lovingly prepared dinner.

St. Stephen's Day

December 26th was celebrated uniquely in Ireland. Hundreds of "wren boys" searched the countryside in the days preceeding Christmas for the hapless little bird who was knocked on the head and placed in a box with holly or upon a pole decorated with holly. The wren boys then paraded up and down the streets in petticoats or other outlandish getup and sang the wren song at various households along the way.

The wren, the wren, the king of all birds, On St. Stephen's Day was caught in the furze; Though his body is small, his family is great; So, rise up good woman, and give us a treat. Up with the kettle, and down with the pan: Give us some money to bury the wren.

The words varied from locale to locale, but the above is a reasonable translation. I cannot but wonder if this custom has seen a decline in popularity with the current trend favoring animal rights. Christmas carols were never as popular in Ireland as elsewhere; in fact, most of them are English carols. One such carol is Cornish. Ma Gron War'n Gelinen celebrates the nativity of Christ and the older veneration of the evergreen.

Now the holly bears a berry
as white as the milk,
And Mary bore Jesus,
who was wrapped up in silk.

And Mary bore Jesus
our Savior to be,
And the first tree in the greenwood,
it was the holly.

Now the holly bears a berry as
black as the coal,
And Mary bore Jesus who died
for us all.

Now the holly bears a berry
as blood it is red,
Then trust we our Saviour
who rose from the dead.

A few seventeenth century carols survive, particularly in the county of Wexford. An even older carol, "Curoo, Curoo," survives. It, and the Cornish Carol, were made popular by the Clancy Brothers a number of years ago and are still available from Rego CDs and Tapes. Putting up a Christmas tree is a relatively modern custom, initiated in the sixties with the advent of television. Previously, homes were decorated with boughs and garlands of laurel, holly and ivy.

Christmas has become commercialized in Ireland as the rest of the world. But here, the festival as a family occasion comes first. And the religious significance is at the heart of each family celebration.

Christmas in Ireland brings to mind the simple and lasting pleasures. It's a wonderful time for budget airfares and accommodations. Be sure to check in advance for openings. Many B & Bs close for the winter, as do some tourist attractions. However, for those who enjoy the warmth of a turf fire, the cheer of a friendly pub, and miles and miles of open fields to walk in, there's no better time to travel.

Nollaig Shona Duit agus Slainte.
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Nollaig Shona Duit!

In the Irish language Christmas is called "Nollaig" which comes from the Latin "natalica" meaning birthday. Most Irish people are Catholic and Christmas Day is almost entirely a religious festival. Most people go to church (Catholic Mass) and will find the church beautifully decorated and a "creche" or manger scene before the altar.

The next eleven days are set aside for parties and a great amount of visiting. This ends on the twelfth night which is Epiphany.

Lighted Candle Placed in Window

A distinctive feature of Christmas decorations is the very large candle placed near the front window and lighted on Christmas Eve. According to one belief, the candle long served as a symbol of welcome to Mary and Joseph who sought shelter in vain on that first Christmas Eve. The ceremony of lighting the candle is one of simple ancient rituals during which prayers are said for the departed and the privilege of striking the match is usually given to a daughter named Mary. (Another tradition is that the candle be lighted by the youngest member of the family and snuffed out only by someone named Mary).

For centuries it has been a practice in Irish villages to set the kitchen table after the evening meal on Christmas Eve. On it is a loaf of bread filled with caraway seeds and raisins, a pitcher of milk and a large lit candle. The door is left unlatched. Thus, hospitality is extended to the Holy Family or to any traveler that might be on the road. Also it is said that the candles were "kindled to guide the angels who on Christmas night direct the New Born from the Heavens".

The story of the abiding religious faith to which this nation has clung to so strongly for centuries is reflected in the symbolism of the lighted candle in the window, which spells out the simple beauty of the the Christmas story.

This flickering symbol also served as a signal in times past to any priest seeking shelter and protection that he was welcome in this house and that it was safe to say Mass there.

Irish actress, Roma Downey, who portrays the angel Monica on Touched By an Angel, is in keeping with the tradition of her native land, where families from her hometown of Derry light candles in every window on Christmas Eve as a welcome to friends, Santa and wayward travelers.

Candle lighting at this time can also be traced back to antiquity, to the time when ancient Romans lighted candles at the midwinter festival to signify the return of the sun's light after the winter soltice.

Holly Wreaths

The glossy-leaved holly with it's clusters of red berries, popular as a door decoration in North America can be traced to early settlers from the south of Ireland. They came to the United States during the Great Potato Famine. Holly grows wild in the south of Ireland and at Christmas time houses are lavishly decorated with holly.

Santa Claus/Father Christmas

In some areas, due to English influence, it is Father Christmas who the children wait for to fill their stockings on Christmas Eve. In other areas of Ireland, due to western influences, you will find Santa Claus instead.

So, how do you say Merry Christmas in Irish, you ask? Nollaig Shona Duit (NoLik Suna Ditch)
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