ntroduction of Christianity to Ireland dates from the 5th century, but little is written until an English King introduced the festivities.
In 1171, the English King, Henry II sent his armies to get the Irish chiefs to swear allegiance to the English Crown. For some unknown reason the chiefs were agreeable (well at this time) and Henry had a hugh hall built. He smartly erected this hall in a traditional Irish style in a village called Hogges on the outskirts of Dublin. Here the chieffs were treated to a sumptuous feast and they were entertained by Christmas plays and musical entertainment.
It is Irish writers of the 19th and 20th century that gave Ireland and the world a glimpse of Christmas in homes and farmsteads. We learn of several beautiful customs.
PUTTING A CANDLE IN THE WINDOW: This is an ancient symbol of Irish hospitality signifying that a stranger was welcome in a particular house. At Christmas time, to welcome the stranger was to welcome Mary, Joseph and Jesus (reminding everyone that in Christian tradition,there was no room in the Inn for Mary and Joseph and Jesus was born in a humble stable)
WHITE WASHING THE HOUSE: This was a symbol of preparation to welcome the Holy Family (Jesus, Mary, Joseph) into the home. Even the poorest of cottages could prepare for the coming of the King by making the outside and inside of the home beautiful and clean. The women scrubbed and polished the inside and the men took a bucket of whitewash or limewash and did the outside of the home.
This custom goes back long before christianity or even celtic civilisation. It was a purifying ceremony from the ancient Mesopotamians, (4000BC )who 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 Norweigan and Germanic lore, this type of cleaning was done more out of fear than out of love. The Frigg the goddess would check all houses to make sure they were bright and clean.
“Nollaig Shona Duit”
(NO-Lihg HO-nuh ghwich). This literally means “You have a Happy Christmas.”
If one were to wish someone a “Happy New Year,“Athbhliain faoi Mhaise Duit” AH-vlee ihn fwee WAH-shuh wich)