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Christmas Eve in Ireland

Christmas Eve (Oíche Nollag) marks the start of the Christmas and New Year period in the Republic of Ireland. Many people have to work for part of the day. However, they generally make an effort to spend the evening at home with family members and enjoy a simple, informal meal.

Is Christmas Eve a Public Holiday?

Christmas Eve is not a public holiday. Businesses have normal opening hours.

Christmas cake slices

Many people enjoy a slice of Christmas cake, which is made at least weeks or even months before Christmas Day.

©iStockphoto.com/Richard Hobson

What Do People Do?

People generally have to work on Christmas Eve in the Republic of Ireland. However, many take some time off work to decorate their homes and enjoy a simple, informal meal with family members. Some people put up a Christmas tree with baubles, tinsel and small electric lights. Others  decorate their homes with garlands, candles, holly and ivy.

Many families also display a miniature crèche scene with figures representing Mary, Joseph, Jesus, an angel, the shepherds and some domestic animals. In the evening, many people put a candle or small electric light in one or more windows. This is to show the Holy Family that they are welcome.

Public Life

Christmas Eve is not a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland. However, many businesses and organizations are closed or close early. Pubs and restaurants may be closed or close earlier than usual. Public transport services generally run to their normal timetables in the early part of the day. However, services may stop in the late afternoon or early evening.

Background

Christmas Eve is traditionally a day of fasting in Ireland. Adults and children who took their first communion only ate a single meal of potatoes with a white sauce. The Christmas feast began in the evening and seasonal treats were eaten. This tradition is reflected in the modern customs of eating fish in white sauce and mashed potatoes, as well as cutting the Christmas cake in the evening. 

Symbols

Traditionally, the Christmas cake (ca'ca Nollaig) is first cut in the evening of Christmas Eve. The cake is flavored with spices and contains many nuts and dried fruit soaked in whiskey or brandy. It is made a few months before Christmas and stored carefully in a cloth soaked in whiskey or brandy. Every few weeks, the cake is unwrapped and 'fed', by pricking small holes in it and filling them with whiskey or brandy.

The cake is unwrapped and covered in a layer of almond paste or marzipan a few days before Christmas Eve. The almond paste is covered in a layer of royal icing the next day. This is made of powdered sugar, egg whites and lemon juice and sets very hard. It may be served with tea, punch, whiskey or brandy.

About Christmas Eve in other countries

Read more about Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday Type
2010FriDec 24Christmas EveObservance
2011SatDec 24Christmas EveObservance
2012MonDec 24Christmas EveObservance
2013TueDec 24Christmas EveObservance
2014WedDec 24Christmas EveObservance
2015ThuDec 24Christmas EveObservance
2016SatDec 24Christmas EveObservance
2017SunDec 24Christmas EveObservance
2018MonDec 24Christmas EveObservance
2019TueDec 24Christmas EveObservance
2020ThuDec 24Christmas EveObservance

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