Valentine’s Day In Ireland

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and many of you may be curious about how Irish people celebrate this most romantic day of the year. Credit

And here’s a little question to whet your appetite for romantic information about my fellow country men and women….


Which Irish person receives

the most Valentine’s cards each year?


Incredibly, the answer is the late Michael Collins. Almost 93 years after his death, Ireland’s revolutionary leader receives a plethora of Valentine’s cards, which are placed on his grave in Glasnevin cemetery.

When I read this fact in a wonderful infographic created by the good folks at Killarney Hotels, I thought I should share their research with you.

Truth be told I’m no Valentine’s expert. We do little to celebrate the day in our house. When my eldest son was asked to write a story at school answering the following question:


What does your family do to celebrate Valentine’s Day?


He answered truthfully, honestly and concisely by writing at the top of a long page of lines …..




That’s my romantic Irish boy. Remember the same child answered his teacher’s question about why he loves his mom, by answering “because she does the work“.

And so, as the mother of such a budding Irish romantic, my level of Valentine’s expertise demands I hand you over to the highly informed hoteliers in Killarney, who are more keenly in tune with the romantic side of my homeland. I hope you enjoy this little round up of facts about Irish Valentine celebrations……..


Valentine's Day In IrelandImage Credit

Wishing you all a very romantic and happy Valentine’s Day 2015.

Slán agus beannacht,

Goodbye and blessings,

Irish American Mom

P.S. This is not a sponsored post and I don’t have a business relationship with the good folks at Killarney Hotels. I simply enjoyed their infographic, appreciate the work they put into creating it, and thought you might like it too.

Christmas – ‘Tis The Season For Singing.

Christmas time is singing time, whether you enjoy Christmas tunes on the radio or listening to carol singers. Being able to hold a tune is truly a blessing at this time of year.

Alack and alas, I was at the back of the line when tuneful vocal chords were being handed out. Credit

To be honest, I sound a little like a half-strangled turkey when performing a party piece.  The situation is so bad my children plead with me not to sing along to the radio.  Being Irish, and not being a good singer is a little bit of a disappointment. As we all know, my countrymen love a good tune.

One day I shared my deepest wish with my husband.


“I would like to be able to sing in my next life,” I confided.


Without lifting his head from his book, he quickly replied:


“Judging by this life, your singing career is at least two lives away.”


And so, I’m a hopeless, out-of-tune mess. I don’t mind my lack of talent until Christmas comes around. Being able to sing in tune is a very handy skill at this time of year.

© Copyright Jonathan Billinger and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License.

Image Credit

Tuneful renditions of lovely Christmas carols ring out on street corners. I try not to be cajoled into join in, since I know if I head for a high note, my poor voice could get stuck in the wrong key for a few hours.

I tremble when I think of my high school singing test. I inadvisedly chose Annie’s Song for my performance. I remember examining the piano on stage. For a moment I was tempted to hide behind it, rather than face my teenage audience.

Somehow I found my courage and launched into my acapella tune.  Our music teacher, seemed pleasantly surprised initially.  I was in tune for the first two lines, but then disaster struck. I reached for a high note, and try as I might I couldn’t switch down a register. That strangled turkey took the stage once again, and doomed me to a role of back stage helper throughout my high school years. Credit

Now when my little ones sweetly croon at their school nativity plays, or carol singing with their class mates I do not join in. No matter how nostalgic I may feel listening to my little shepherds and angel with her tinsel halo, I refuse to sing.   Mouthing the words is a perfect way to cheat.  Once I get my timing right, they think mom is singing away.

Some people, my husband included, could sing the list of ingredients for fruit cake and sound absolutely fantastic.

I thought about asking Santa or maybe even St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless cases, for a singing voice this year. But I don’t think talents are ever on their delivery lists.  Probably just as well. If I could sing, I would never stop humming and crooning away, driving my family, and maybe even the world, crazy. Credit


So my advice to all you singers this year. If you have been blessed with the God given talent of a tuneful voice, please share it with the world.

If your vocal chords emit sweet sounds and you don’t sound like an off-key turkey,  then:


Sing with gusto;

Lead those sing-songs;

Take a bow;

For Christmas,

‘Tis the season for singing.


 Wishing you all happy December days of singing.


Nollaig Shona Daoibh!

(Goodbye and blessings)


Irish American Mom



Christmas Crackers

Christmas crackers were part and parcel of all my childhood Christmases in Ireland. My sisters and I loved playing with these festive, popping, paper tubes before we tucked into our Christmas dinner.

Boxes of Christmas Crackers on Shelves

On Christmas Day our place settings always included a Christmas cracker lovingly laid above our spoons.  Patiently waiting to start our cracker games, we admired the glittering favors on our yuletide table.

Once we all sat down to dinner the cracker wars began.  Crackers can be pulled in a sedate and genteel manner seated beside a table, but that would have been too lady like for cracker fanatics.  We stood face-to-face, with feet placed strategically apart, to create maximum pulling advantage.

Christmas Crackers

Holding firmly to my end, I pulled with all my might.  With eyes closed tightly I valiantly fought my Christmas cracker battles. 

The loud explosive crackle of  our gleeful paper tearing signaled time to open my eyes. Sheer delight followed if I held the larger half of the tube, with all its hidden surprises, which were usually found scattered all over the dining room floor.

Red Christmas Cracker

Now truth be told these hidden surprises were little more than plastic tricky trackies.  A corny joke on a little rectangular piece of paper was wrapped around a neatly folded colored paper crown.

Here’s a quick question for all my Irish readers –


Have you have ever eaten your Christmas dinner

with a brightly colored paper crown adorning your head?


I’m quite certain every Irish photo album contains a few pictures of relatives wearing Christmas cracker hats at the dinner table.

Christmas Cracker Paper Crown

As I started to reminisce about Christmas crackers I realized I have no idea when and how they came to be. I guessed they are an English, Victorian innovation, so I took to the internet to discover the “truth”.

Christmas crackers are indeed an English invention, and were first created by a Victorian gentleman and sweet maker called Tom Smith.

During a trip to Paris he was impressed by French bon-bon sweets, which were beautifully wrapped almonds with a joke printed inside. He tried selling  ‘bon-bon’s” in England, but they simply didn’t catch on.

One evening as he sat by his warm fire, watching the logs sparking and crackling, a brain wave struck.  Why not place the sweets with little toys inside a paper tube that popped once opened.

Golden Christmas Cracker

Tom’s cracker business was born and it was a resounding success. His three sons, Tom, Walter and Henry, eventually took over the business, and Walter introduced the now-obligatory paper crowns, which may symbolize the Wise Kings who visited Jesus in the manger.

I bought Christmas crackers for my children last year for the very first time. They were a resounding success. They absolutely LOVED them.

This year they keep asking me if we are going to have Christmas crackers again.

Vintage Christmas Table with Christmas Crackers

And so, in 2014 I plan to continue our little Irish Christmas cracker tradition.

From this year onwards our Christmas table setting will not be complete without a lovingly placed Christmas cracker above the spoon.

Box of Christmas Crackers

Wishing you all happy Christmas cracker pulling contests this year.



Nollaig Shona Daoibh

(Merry Christmas)


Irish American Mom


P.S. Purchasing Christmas Crackers In America


I have purchased Christmas crackers in Target and World Market in the past, but I found their stocks were limited.

A quick disclosure note: The link below is an affiliate link and I will receive a commission if you choose to make a purchase using this link. Thanks in advance if you do utilize this link for your Irish shopping.

For online purchases of Christmas crackers check out the Food Ireland website..  They have a wonderful selection of Irish goodies which can be shipped throughout the United States.

“Santy” – The Name I Used For Santa Claus, When I Was A Little Girl In Ireland

Santa Claus is the name my children call good old Father Christmas, but when I was a little girl in Dublin, I called the red suited toy deliverer “Santy”. 

Or maybe that should be spelled “Santee”, I’m not certain.

www.vintagerio.comImage Credit

For weeks before Christmas everyone in Dublin seemed to be interested in what good old St. Nicholas might be bringing in his sack on Christmas night.  Everywhere we went, kind folks loved to talk about chimney deliveries on Christmas Eve.

The milk man! The post man! The butcher! Shop assistants!  Irish people love to chat, especially with little ones, and at Christmas time their favorite question was:


“What’s Santy bringin’ ya’ for Christmas?”


Another frequent question was:


“Have you been to see Santy yet?”


I have no idea why Father Christmas was usually called Santy when I was growing up in Ireland.  On films and American television we heard the term Santa, but in our Irish family the white bearded giver was always Santy. 

We seldom even added his last name “Claus”. We were all on first name terms with our beloved Santy.

When I first came to America I remember asking a little girl – “What’s Santy bringing you for Christmas?”

She looked at me strangely, then asked:  “Who’s that?”

Until then, I had never really thought about this difference in terminology. And so my American evolution continued when I had to rename Father Christmas and use the more globally accepted term of Santa Claus.

Decorations in the Pavillions Swords

Now that I have kids of my own, I sometimes slip up and say ‘Santy”.  They just roll their eyes, and say:  “I think you mean Santa, Mom.”

I don’t believe Irish children use the name “Santy” anymore. Popular culture and American influences have changed our naming of Good Old Saint Nick, but in my memories every Christmas Eve, I waited for “Santy”.

Now in Irish or Gaelic the term we use is Daidí na Nollag, which is literally Daddy Christmas, or Father Christmas. But we were English speakers in my home, and therefore we called him “Santy”.

I wonder does the name “Santy” bring back happy memories for any readers of my ramblings.

Christmas Fireplace in Dublin Castle

Truth be told, no matter the name we call him, Santa Claus, Santy, or Daidí na Nollag, he is the same generous guy, who makes his rounds each Christmas night, sharing his love all over the world.


Nollaig Shona Daoibh

(Merry Christmas)


Irish American Mom

Why Graveyards Remind Me Of Christmas

Visiting our departed loved ones at Christmas is an age old Irish tradition. My childhood memories of Christmas Day include a trip to the local cemetery to say a prayer at the gravesides of our deceased relatives and friends.

Irish graveyard - Leaba Molloga, Kildorrery, Co. Cork

To many this may seem a very grave matter for Christmas time, but if like me your heritage is Irish, connecting Christmas with death is a perfectly normal and natural thing to do.

Honoring our ancestors and those who have gone before us is very important to Irish families.  Christmas is a family holiday which we not only celebrate with the living, but also the dead. When a close relative is unable to visit a grave, a cousin or a friend will often complete the traditional task.

Irish graveside

I have heard that Finnish people also observe this tradition of Christmas visits to graveyards. There however, the visit usually happens on Christmas Eve just before dark.  Finns usually light a candle in memory of their loved ones.  I can only imagine how beautiful it must be as darkness falls.  Graveyards must transform into a beautiful sea of candles.

On Christmas Day in Ireland graveside weed pulling is deferred, but old vases and pots of decaying flowers are replaced with wreaths of holly and ivy.  We pay our respects in many ways. Some write little notes, and graveside mementos are placed respectfully over the dead.

Irish graveyard ruin

But these customs are not reserved for the recently departed. Our long lost ancestors are often acknowledged on this holy of holy days.

Cemetery visitors nod to each other, respectfully conveying season’s greetings, yet all the while acknowledging our forebears are now close neighbors.

Like many other Irish people, I find graveyards have long been a source of solitude, comfort and contemplation.  Even as a child I never objected to our yuletide cemetery visits, recognizing at a young age that this was part of our heritage – our family duty.

Ancient door in an old Irish church

As I have grown older and look back on my Irish childhood I have come to fully appreciate this family ritual, even though many may deem it too somber for this merry season. But I never felt somber as I searched headstones for names I recognized so well.

Our ritual actually felt joyous, as if somehow in my young heart I knew I was bringing the joy of Christmas to our beloved family members who had passed away. Together we honored their lives, aware their lives gave us life, and the ability to celebrate this joyous season.

Celtic Cross, Molloga Graveyard, Kildorrery

A silent spiritual music provided rhythm to our Christmas stroll around grave stones and family memorials. Trees seemed silent and indifferent, yet ancient stones comforted us, rooting us to the valleys of our past.

As I now walk amongst the Celtic crosses of my memories, I am reminded that we too are simply passing through. We are only temporary residents on earth, yet duty bound to find joy in the simple things in life, especially family holidays and celebrations.



Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)


Irish American Mom