You Cannot Beat Christmas in Ireland

Looking down Wicklow St from Grafton St (courtesy of PabloBarcelona via Wikimedia Commons)

All of my ex-pat friends and I agree - you cannot beat Christmas in Ireland.  For those of you who've never experienced it, allow me to illuminate you.  Christmas is not just one day but the entire month of December.  An entire month of celebrations and good will (also an entire month of packed shops but hey, who's complaining as we start to emerge from recession)!

I first immigrated to Ireland in November of 1995 and spent my first Christmas away from my birth family that year. What made it so much easier was how FUN it was.  I remember being blown away by everyone saying "Sure, its Christmas!" weeks before the 25th and having to get into a city centre pub by 5.30pm to ensure we'd have a seat.  I thought late buses ran all the time like they run at Christmas - great craic up the top and strangers amicably singing together all the way home.  I was awe struck.

But Dublin has more to offer than just the 12 Pubs Of Christmas.  Did you know Handel's Messiah was first performed in Dublin (on Fishamble St in Temple Bar) in 1742?  If the Hallelujah Chorus floats your boat, you can choose from a myriad of offerings around the city at this time of year, including the National Concert Hall.  Cathedrals & churches are great places to nip into for a christmas concert.  Living in Ireland has introduced me to the surreal world of panto. I can't explain it except to say its an annual, beloved family ritual held in high esteem.  And that it scares me a little.  I'd still prefer to see a performance of The Nutcracker Ballet (I guess I haven't gone totally native).

Belfast Castle grounds, looking towards city

The city itself is decked out in lights so that just walking through the streets is like walking through a winter wonderland. Do you like to ice skate? In the last 7/8 years, temporary ice rinks have been popping up throughout the city, even on the top of department stores (Rockefeller Centre, eat your heart out)!  Not to mention the various Christmas Markets to be visited on your jaunts across Dublin.

Truth be told, all my American ex-pat friends and I agree we'd rather stay in Ireland over Christmas than go back to the States.  Its not that we don't want to be with our birth families & old friends but that Christmas here is  just so much more relaxed, festive and enjoyable.  You can't beat it.  So whether you celebrate Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanza/Yule/Winter Solstice or absolutely nothing at all, may you enjoy the season and hopefully, if you're lucky, you'll get to enjoy it in Ireland.

Looking down Henry St from O'Connell St (courtesy of Miguel Mendez on Wikimedia Commons) note empty carts which are full of venders wares during the day (Christmas season only)


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