Holly wreath

Holly grows easily in Ireland, and with its dense green foliage and red berries it makes for a beautiful Christmas decoration. The wreaths you see on many homes started as a Gaelic tradition.

A welcoming candle

This is a beautiful tradition that although dying out would be easy for your family to reignite (especially with today's flameless candles). Catholics place a candle in the window as a symbol of hospitality to Mary and Joseph. It is also a sign to travelers and those in need that they can find refuge in that house.

Honoring Mary

You may know that Mary is a very popular name in Ireland as a way to honor the Blessed Mother. A Mary in the family has a key part to play in the run-up to Christmas; not only does she light and put out the candle in the widow, she will also pay a visit to other homes as families pack away their Christmas decorations for the next year.

The laden table

After the Christmas meal, the table is cleared away and set again, this time with a loaf of bread, caraway seeds, a pitcher of milk, and lit candle. This is to be able to offer food and drink to Mary and Joseph, or anyone wandering in the area in need of refreshments.

St. Stephen's Day

On the feast of St. Stephen (December 26), or Lá Fhéile Stiofáin, many families mark this day by spending time with their family or visiting other family and friends. Big sporting events also take part on this day, so many families relax at home watching the games.

Little Christmas

On January 6, Epiphany, or "Little Christmas" as it's called in Ireland, families make sure all their decorations are taken down. Remember the important role a Mary in the family will play on this special day.

Women's Christmas

Nollaigh na mBean, or "Women's Christmas," is celebrated on the Feast of the Epiphany. In this wonderful tradition, the women of the household take the day off and treat themselves while the men do the housework and get the  decorations stored away -- a tradition many frazzled moms might really appreciate at this time of year!

Icy swim

Nothing quite freshens you up during all the festivities than a chilly dip in the sea (or river for those not near the beach)! The Christmas Day swim is becoming increasingly popular, with participants taking part in the popular Forty Foot beach swim in South Dublin.

Christmas break

Although it's common to have Christmas Day off, many businesses close completely between Christmas Day and New Year's Day for families to spend time together and focus on the religious meaning of the season.

The festive Gaelic greeting

Nollaig Shona Duit, or should we say, "Merry Christmas!" Pronounced null-ig hun-a dit, it's a fun way to bring a little linguistic flair to your family while wishing each other the very best in this season of goodwill.