Every year we invite a storyteller to Friendship Village to share historical stories and traditions with the residents. In the past, re-enactors such as Mark Twain, Ohio Presidents and First Ladies have visited our community to share their stories.
This year, Mike Follin from the Ohio History Connection in Columbus, Ohio brought to life his character “Shawn O’Shaughnessy,” a composite character compiled from diaries, journals, letters and first-hand accounts of the Irish who immigrated into the United States during the 19th century. In the spirit of the holidays, he shared the Christmas traditions of the Irish to conclude his presentation.
Candles & Food
The Irish traditionally place lit candles in the windows at Christmas to display their hospitality toward others. It is a sign that your home is open and waiting for guests. It’s also customary to not clean off the table completely after supper, to leave out a bit of food and drink out on your table in case Mary and Joseph come in the night.
Holly & Mistletoe
It is common to see holly bushes planted on both sides of an Irish doorway for good luck. The holly bush grows freely in Ireland and anyone who enters your home past the holly bush will bring good luck with them into your home and take some luck with them when they leave. If you don’t have a holly bush, hanging a bunch of holly on either side of your door is the next best thing.
Kissing under the mistletoe is an entirely American tradition. In Ireland, mistletoe grows wild and does not lose its colors in the dark months of winter. Irish legend claims that mistletoe has healing powers, especially to heal feelings of ill will from your enemies. Placing the mistletoe over a doorway will take away dislike and mend the health of your foes.
Santa & Presents
The Irish do not leave out milk and cookies for Santa. Instead, they leave out Guinness and mince pies. In an Irish household, presents are put in a bag at the foot of the bed for Christmas morning because the Christmas tree is not a traditional decoration. The exception to this rule is if someone besides your immediate family gives you a present, then you put it on the table for everyone to see it.
Women’s Christmas Day
The final tradition is to not take down your Christmas decorations until January 6. It is bad luck and a curse will come down upon you. While the wife puts the decorations up, it’s the man’s job to take them down because January 6 is known as Old Christmas or Women’s Christmas Day and on that day women can do anything they jolly well please!
Nollaig Shona Duit! (Merry Christmas in Gaelic)