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    Winter Festivals

    in Ireland until December when streets are lined with lit decorations and live Christmas trees are often mounted like flag staffs from building fronts.

    Outside Christmas lights can be seen on a few homes but the big decorating efforts take place inside. A live Christmas tree is the center of the efforts, with lights and ornaments. Decorative garlands of paper or foil crisscross the rooms of many homes and mistletoe graces the doorways.

    Santa Claus and his helpers can be found at many malls and department stores to take Christmas wish lists or for the very lucky children a trip to visit his workshop in Lapland can be arranged.

    Gifts for friends and from family members to each other pile up under the Christmas tree in the days before Christmas and as everywhere a lot of squeezing, shaking and guessing goes on, but in the back of everyone's mind is what Santa will bring on Christmas morning.

    The children's presents are left in each child's gifts in their room, often in a pillow case at the end of the bed, though sometimes a large gift may be left unwrapped under the tree. Christmas stockings are a tradition with some families and are hung Christmas Eve for Santa to fill. He arrives quite late as Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve is still a strong tradition for many families and the chimney is his main entrance into most homes.

    As with holiday traditions everywhere, food plays a big part of celebration in Ireland and, just like else where, there is some variation from family to family. A fairly traditional menu for Christmas dinner includes either a Goose or Turkey with stuffing, ham, roasted and boiled potatoes, Brussel sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, parsnips and any other family favorites, followed by Christmas cake or a Christmas pudding.

    A favorite treat throughout the Christmas season are small mincemeat pies.

    They prepare spiritually. From the beginning of advent add prayers to usual devotions. Children should say additional Paters and Aves and to count them. Be especially sure to be "a hardy annual" and be sure to go to church.

    Many days before the festival clean house and farmyard thoroughly. Men clean outbuildings and yard entrances passageways and surroundings. White-wash all buildings inside and out. Women sweep, wash and clean the house. Do major laundering- include everything. Clean tables and chairs with sand. Clean pots and pans.

    Children survey the countryside for holly, ivy, bay and other evergreens for later cutting. Holly with berries is especially prized. Make Ivy garlands. Whiten ivy berries with whiting or starch.

    Cut colored paper scraps into adornment and use needle and thread to string loose holly onto linen in patterns or seasonal mottoes. Purchase decorations from a peddler or traveling person. Make a small cross of holly sprigs or crossed pieces of wood. Where mistletoe is found you can decorate with it and the girl kissed under it receives a gift from the boy. Just before Christmas go to the town to "bring home the Christmas"- go to the Christmas market for this purpose. Make poitin. Make sure you have at least a quart available. Lay in a good supply of fuel for heating. Obtain a special log- bog deal, the "bloc Na Nollag". Clean the Chimney using a prickly bush pulled up and down.

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