Christmas Day is always celebrated on 25 December and is the commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ. It is a bank holiday in Ireland with schools, businesses, shops and government offices mostly closed. Public transport is very limited.
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In Ireland on Christmas, many people attend Mass and church services, either on the night before or during the morning of 25 December. A lot of churches hold their Christmas Eve services at midnight to usher in the special day. Candles are lit, carols are sung and there is an atmosphere of joy and celebration.
To symbolise that Jesus Christ was God’s gift to mankind, on Christmas Day people give gifts to one another, with children being receiving the most gifts. This tradition has become very commercialised and often incorporates the legendary character, Santa Claus, who visits from the North Pole wearing a red and white suit and travelling on his sleigh full of toys, which is pulled by reindeer.
Shops, streets and homes are decorated during the month of December and these decorations usually stay up until Epiphany on 6 January. The key decoration is the Christmas tree, typically a conifer decorated with tinsel, baubles and trinkets. Many families also add a ‘crib’ – a small representation of the nativity of Jesus. Under the trees, families place the gifts that are to be opened.
Much of the gift giving occurs on Christmas morning and is followed in most homes in the early afternoon by a feast – Christmas Dinner. Some of the fare at the feast may include a roasted turkey or goose, roasted vegetables, especially parsnips, potatoes and pumpkin, some green vegetables like peas and brussel sprouts, honey-glazed carrots, gravy made from the pan stock, and cranberry sauce. For a sweet dessert the most common is pudding with cream and sherry trifle.