Christmas tradition

There are some Christmas traditions in Ireland that stand the test of time, like the tradition of leaving a candle burning in the window on Christmas Eve. Some believe it to be a symbol of welcome to Mary and Joseph who sought shelter on the very first Christmas Eve. To have no light in your window means you share the guilt of the innkeeper who turned them away.

Another story surrounding the tradition stems from the time when Ireland was under English rule and saying mass was outlawed. The candle in the window served as a sign to priests that it was safe to say mass in that house. Should English soldiers inquire about the meaning of the candle, the Irish would say it was a symbol of welcome, as above.

But many believe the tradition pre-dates Christianity and was an ancient way of welcoming the return of the light after the winter solstice.


Another Irish tradition is a bracing swim on Christmas morning. The most famous spot to take the plunge is the 40 Foot in Dublin Bay. In olden days it was a men-only swimming spot and skinny dipping was the norm, but nowadays it’s open to men, women and children. Togs are now required although there’s a small area reserved for those who prefer to go swimming in their altogether, and on Christmas morning there’s usually at least one fellow taking the plunge in a Santa suit.

But there’s a newer tradition that began in 2008 when the German supermarket chain Aldi first offered its run-up-to-Christmas produce bargains. Now a whole range of supermarkets pick a handful of fruits and veggies and offer them up to the Irish consumer for almost but not quite free.

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This year, apart from the traditional Christmas dinner staples of potatoes, carrots, parsnips, onions and brussel sprouts, the stores have been offering deeply discounted lemons, limes, pineapples, melons and avocados. The competition is fierce. I was standing in Tesco looking at mounds of pineapples under a sign saying “5 for a euro” when a lady sidled up to me and whispered in my ear “You can get them for 5 cents each at Aldi.”

Judging by the rate at which those pineapples, melons and avocados flew off the shelves, it looks like there are going to be plenty of non-traditional Christmas dishes being served up in Irish kitchens all over the country.

About ailsapm

Hi there! I’m Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney. I’ve lived in many places, and travelled to many more. I had a lot of fun getting there and being there, wherever there happened to be at the time. I climbed a castle wall in Czesky Krumlov, abseiled down cliffs to go caving in the west of Ireland, slept on the beach in Paros, got chased by a swarm of bees in Vourvourou (ok that wasn’t fun, but it was exciting), learned flower arranging in Tokyo, found myself in the middle of a riot in Seoul, learned to snowboard in Salzburg, got lost in a labyrinth in Budapest and had my ice cream stolen by a gull in Cornwall. And I’m just getting started. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read so far, I’d love you to follow my travelogue - - and remember, anyone who tries to tell you it’s a small world hasn’t tried to see it all.
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49 Responses to Christmas tradition

  1. Max510 says:

    Merry Christmas Ailsa !

  2. Pat . says:

    They can keep the brussel sprouts…
    Have a great Christmas!

  3. Bill Hayes says:

    The candles was the best bit. Have a great christmas.

  4. Gunta says:

    What a lovely tradition!!! Happy Christmas to you!

  5. Sounds yummy to me! Hope you and yours have a very merry Christmas! (and I like that candle in the window)

  6. mvschulze says:

    Have a great Christmas. Thanks for the posts this year. M

  7. livvy30 says:

    Merry Christmas Ailsa!

  8. Bastet says:

    Merry Christmas and thanks for the tradition share! 😀

  9. semprevento says:


  10. love the idea of chasing 5 cent pineapples for Crimble. I believe the SALES are starting TODAY in London town. Happy Birthday Baby Jesus!

  11. Leya says:

    Merry Christmas, Ailsa – thank you for sharing the traditions with us!

  12. tgeriatrix says:

    Thanks for sharing the traditions! As one said before me: They can keep the Brussel sprouts!
    Schöne Weihnachten!

  13. Merry Christmas, Ailsa!

  14. Rusha Sams says:

    Wow! Hope the markdown tradition moves to the States as well! Merry Christmas!

  15. Wow, didn’t know about that Ireland tradition. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Merry Christmas, Ailsa!

  16. Lucid Gypsy says:

    My aldi doesnt do that, I think they should dont you? 🙂

    • ailsapm says:

      I think they should too, Gilly! It certainly added a little cheer to the dreaded Christmas shopping experience. 🙂 Hope you had a lovely day. xxx Ailsa

  17. Heyjude says:

    I love the idea of the candle in the window welcoming the coming of the lighter days. And I love sprouts too, even though I haven’t bought any this year, but at 5c I might have 🙂
    Merry Christmas Ailsha, I look forward to many more challenges from you in the New Year!
    Jude xx

  18. Merry Christmas! I’m sure a lot of people out there are having a fun time trying to rustle up a festive pineapple dish… ^__^

    • ailsapm says:

      Indeed, I’m sure there’ll be some very unusual experiments – duck a la pineapple? I’m going to try making pineapple chutney myself. Wish me luck! Merry Christmas 🙂

  19. Wow! My fruit-loving daughter would love this new tradition.
    We always have (fake) candles lit in our window all Christmas season. I didn’t know the story behind it. It’s just one of those common Christmas decorations that we’ve always seen and liked.

  20. bebs1 says:

    Merry Christmas Ailsa! I guess this is the best time to stock up on those Brussel sprouts. Just kidding, I mean the pineapples.

  21. Expat Eye says:

    Happy Christmas to you! I was wondering why there was a fecking pineapple on the kitchen counter when I walked in – now I know 😉

    The ‘Crap Christmas jumper’ thing seems to be a new tradition as well – not sure if it’s only in Ireland though! But it gave me a couple of giggles in the pub, seeing 50-year-old men in jumpers with flashing lights 😉

    • ailsapm says:

      Haha, that made me laugh, yeah, you don’t expect to be greeted by pineapple when you arrive home for the holidays! Oh, yes, and those jumpers are terrifying, especially the ones with a maniacal-looking Rudolf with a red flashing nose. Gulp!

  22. says:

    Thanks for sharing Christmas from across the world ! Love your Blog Ailsa !
    ★ ° . .    . ☾ °☆  . ● ¸ .   ★ ° :.  . • ○ ° ★  .   .      .   °  . ● .    ° ☾ °☆  ¸. ● .  ★  ★ ° ☾ ☆ ¸. ¸  ★  :.  . • ○ ° ★  .   . .  ¸ .   °  ¸. ● ¸ .    ° ☾ °  ¸. ● ¸ .  ★ ° :.  . • °   .   :. . ¸ . ● ¸    ★  ★☾ °★ .     .  °☆  . ● ¸ .   ★ ° .  • ○ ° ★  .        .  ☾ °  ¸. ● ¸     ° ☾ °☆  . ¸.   ★  You have been sprinkled with Christmas Snow, Peace, Love, & Happiness! ★ ° . .    . ☾ °☆  . ● ¸ .   ★ ° :.  . • ○ ° ★  .   .      .   °  . ● .    ° ☾ °☆  ¸. ● .  ★  ★ ° ☾ ☆ ¸. ¸  ★  :.  . • ○ ° ★  .   . .  ¸ .   °  ¸. ● ¸ .    ° ☾★ ° . .    . ☾ °☆  . ● ¸ .   ★ ° :.  . • ○ ° ★  .   .      .   °  . ● .    ° ☾ °☆  ¸. ● .  ★  ★ ° ☾ ☆ ¸. ¸ ☾ °☆  . ● ¸ .   ★ ° :.  . •

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