10 unique Irish Christmas Eve traditions that you should try with your family

From Midnight Mass to leaving treats out for Santa, traditions make Christmas Eve a magical night.

Many families have their own individual rituals that they do together which help make the next day’s celebration even more special.

Some Christmas Eve traditions are unique to Ireland and have stood the test of time. Others are shared by many households across the world.

So whether you want to pick up some new ideas for your family or simply learn more, here are 10 Irish Christmas Eve traditions.

A Christmas Eve Box is a new trend that seems to be growing in popularity every year. It is essentially a special box that you give your loved ones on Christmas Eve that contains special treats to make the day even more exciting.

A children’s box could include things like new pyjamas, Christmas books or reindeer food, while an adult’s box could include a hot water bottle, a bath bomb or prosecco.

This is one of Ireland’s oldest known Christmas Eve traditions. Many households put a tall, thick candle on the sill of the largest window after sunset on December 24 and let it burn all night.

The reasoning behind why differs from each household, but many see it as a welcome to the holy family and a symbol that the house welcomes Jesus.

Whether they are religious or not, a key Christmas Eve tradition for many families is attending the Midnight Mass at their local chapel. It’s a huge social gathering where families, friends and neighbours who you may not have seen all year come together and celebrate Christmas.

Despite the name, many chapels do not actually hold it at midnight, instead bringing it forward to 6pm or 9pm.

  • Going out for an extended family dinner

Christmas is the one time all year when long-distance family members all return home. While it may not be possible this year due to Covid-19, traditionally a lot of families get together at a restaurant on Christmas Eve to catch up with relatives and family members that they have not seen in a while.

  • Leaving treats out for Santa

Before going to bed on Christmas Eve, many children will leave treats out for Santa and his reindeer to enjoy before continuing their travels. For many other countries, milk and cookies are the traditional fare – but in Ireland Santa is usually treated to a pint of Guinness and mince pies.

This year McDonald’s outlets across Ireland are giving out free ‘Reindeer Treats’ on Christmas Eve – and they say you don’t even need to buy anything to get them.

While people rarely go door-to-door anymore, carolers can be heard singing festive songs in towns and main streets across Ireland on Christmas Eve, typically to raise money for charity.

For some families it’s an annual Christmas Eve tradition to take part in or watch Christmas carolling.

  • Drive around to see the Christmas lights

Christmas lights on a house in Newcastle, Co. Dublin.

One of the funniest Christmas Eve traditions that everyone in the family enjoys is when everyone bundles into the car, cranks up the festive tunes and drives around looking at neighbour’s Christmas lights.

  • Christmas Eve Busk on Grafton Street

2021 marks the second year in a row that the legendary Grafton Street Christmas Eve busk will not take place due to Covid-19. Traditionally many of Ireland’s biggest stars turn up to busk in front of hundreds of revellers for charity.

It’s an annual tradition for many families living in or near the capital to travel in and watch it together.

This year however, Bono, Damien Rice and Glen Hansard are coming together for a special busk at St Patrick’s Cathedral that will be livestreamed.

  • Festive drinks before bed

After weeks of rushing around and preparing for the big day, some families like to take a quiet moment together before going to bed and enjoy festive drinks that they usually wouldn’t drink during the year. This could be drinks like hot chocolate for the children or Baileys for adults.

Another event that has been impacted by Covid-19 is the traditional 12 pubs of christmas. It’s a tradition for some adult siblings to get together and do the festive pub crawl on Christmas Eve.

It involves going into 12 different pubs and having a drink in each.

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