This is my second December here in Dublin, however, last year I was new to the city, new to my job and a bit of a basket case so I don’t think I really “noticed” the Christmas season here in Ireland. But this year, I really got to enjoy it.
And this year, I’ve become more aware that there are some differences between the way Dubliners do Christmas and the way we do it in America:
Christmas Eve vs. Christmas Day – This doesn’t necessarily hold true for all Americans but it does for my family and most that I know: Christmas Eve is bigger than Christmas Day. Christmas Eve is when we have the big to-do with the entire extended family and when everyone opens their presents. We still celebrate on Christmas Day but it’s quieter. For me and many members of my family, Christmas Eve is our favorite night of the year. My Irish friends seem to place more importance on Christmas Day, having their big celebration then and going more low-key on Christmas Eve.
** Side note** A more recent Christmas Eve tradition here in Dublin has Bono (yes, Bono) appearing somewhere on Grafton Street during the evening and busking for charity. Last year, Glen Hansard and Sinead O’Connor joined him. I kid you not. This has happened for the past four years and I’d be willing to NOT go home for Christmas one year in order to experience it.
Kris Kringle or Kindle? – The traditional workplace gift exchange over here is known as a Kris Kindle. I’m not sure why. Personally Kris Kringle or Secret Santa makes much more sense to me. With the Kris Kindle, you pick a name, and buy that person a gift. And that’s it. Everyone opens their gifts at once and you’re not even supposed to reveal who the Kris Kindle was. It’s fun but I am used to going a little more all-out with this thing. I’ve done Kris Kringles in many forms, but lately what I’ve done with co-workers and friends is that everyone buys a gift of a certain dollar amount for no particular person. And then we have this wonderful game where people steal gifts from each other. Sounds mean but it’s actually loads of fun. I may need to introduce Dublin to this tradition next year.
No Heat Miser! – When I was a kid, the animated television specials really signified that Christmas was coming. Unlike today, they were on ONCE a year and it was an event complete with popcorn and hot chocolate. There were the traditionally animated Charlie Brown Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which I loved. But for me, it was the Rankin Bass stop motion animated specials that really rocked my world. There was Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town and my absolute favorite, The Year Without a Santa Claus. That’s the one with Heat and Cold Miser!!! I’d sing the song for you right now if you could actually hear me! But sadly, my Irish friends have not seen these specials. I work in ANIMATION and most have never even heard of them. Apparently Irish kids have something called the Late, Late, Toy Show that is a yearly televised event with a talk show host, a bunch of singing kids and lot and lots of toys. Irish kids get to stay up late to watch it, and most hold off on their letter to Santa until after the show, in case they need to add any toys. Sounds nice, but still, no Heat Miser?!!! I’m making it my personal mission to introduce my Irish friends to these little gems by next Christmas.
You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out! – I said that the other day in the office and no one had a clue what I was talking about. A Christmas Story, a movie that has become such a tradition in America that one network shows it for 24 straight hours, never really hit it big over here. The big Christmas movie over here is, wait for it… Die Hard!
Happy, happy – People tend to say “Happy Christmas” over here rather than “Merry Christmas”. Oh, and they are actually allowed to say “Christmas”. When I asked if it was okay to call our office party a Christmas party rather than a Holiday party on the invitation, I just got strange looks. It’s completely fine to say Christmas anytime, anywhere. In fact, I’m told that some people get quite offended if you say “Happy Holidays.” I’m not sure how I feel about assuming that EVERYONE celebrates Christmas but I must admit, I’ve enjoyed saying “Merry Christmas” and not worrying that I was going to be chastised for being insensitive.
Now, these are just casual observations on my part. No one is right or wrong – we’ve just grown up with different traditions. And they are what makes Christmas Christmas for us.
So, whether it’s Kringle or Kindle, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” or “Yippee-ki-yay mother-f***r”, “happy” or “merry”, I wish everyone who has taken time to read this blog the very best “insert holiday you celebrate here”.