Traditional Christmas Greeting: "Nodlaig Nait Cugat"
Location: Western Europe
Tree Type: Cultural
- The flag is the Irish tri-color; the green color represents the Catholic counties of the south, the orange is for the six Protestant counties of the north and the white symbolizes the hoped for peace between them.
- The thatched cottages symbolize the traditional Irish dwelling.
- Shamrocks symbolize the Trinity.
- The Celtic cross is the traditional cross of Ireland.
- The sheep symbolize two aspects of Ireland; first it is a sign of shepherding and second it represents the Christ Child.
- St. Bridget's cross is handmade from reeds. It represents the female patron saint of Ireland.
St., Bridget's cross is traditionally hung on the doors and barns as protection. The tree is toped with St. Bridget's Cross. The Irish never adopted the tree as a symbol of Christmas preferring to display the nativity in its place. On Christmas Eve candles are lighted and placed in the windows and the front door is left unlatched, so that those seeking shelter on this holy night will not be turned away. The candles shine all night and should be blown out by those having the name of Mary. It is a symbol of welcome.
Ireland also celebrates an old custom called "Feeding the Wren." On December 26th, St. Stephen's day, Irish children scour the countryside for a Wren, a small bird similar to a sparrow, or they purchase one. The wren is placed in a cage and the children go door to door collecting money for the poor. Young men costumed and in masks go through the villages and towns making loud noises. They carry a holly bush that is on top of a long pole. The holly bush has a wren in it and the young men solicit money for the poor. At the end of the day the wrens are released. This tradition is in remembrance of St., Stephen the first Christian martyr. Legend states that Stephen was hiding from his Roman pursuers in a Furze bush when a wren landed on the bush and he was betrayed by the little bird singing.