After 24 years of spending Christmas in my home country, it was interesting to see how another country celebrates theirs. Upon further research, I've observed that an Irish Christmas is similar to a traditional American Christmas, but with some exceptions.
Below is a list of 10 things I learned about an Irish Christmas.
1. We wish you a...Merry?
You'll hear both "Happy Christmas" and "Merry Christmas." At work, for instance, everyone was parting with a "Happy Christmas," but at church, it was mixed. I ended up waiting to see which one was said, and then repeating the sentiment back. If nothing was said, I simply said "Merry Christmas." Chances are they won't care which one you choose.
2. The city is dead
With obvious exceptions of hotels, train stations and the airport, nobody works on Christmas in Ireland. Retail doesn't work Christmas in Ireland. Many restaurants don't work Christmas in Ireland. I can't speak for Dublin, but as far as Cork City goes, everything was closed on Christmas Day, including Centra. And if you usually take public transportation, you might consider walking or finding a lift instead - the bus doesn't run on Christmas.
4. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Again, can't speak for Dublin, but Cork City is completely decorated for the holiday. The Cork City Christmas lighting is a big event in early November, and the lights cover the city. There's a massive tree in the centre, a tree by the courthouse and even a tree in the Garda station. Patrick St. is especially beautiful.
5. Christmas Crackers
If you've seen "Doctor Who," particularly "Christmas Invasion" when Ten spends Christmas with Rose's family, and "The Time of the Doctor," when Eleven spends Christmas with Clara's, you know what Christmas crackers are. If not, a Christmas cracker is a brightly colored paper tube with a banger and special treat inside. To get the treat, one simply pulls the cracker apart from both ends with all their strength, or one person pulls one end and another pulls the other end. My Christmas Day cracker gifted me with a tiny pack of cards and a clapper, and my cracker at the church Christmas party gave me a tiny, shiny notepad. Also, donning a traditional Christmas cracker hat is all part of the fun.
6. Mince pies
A sweet of British origin, mince pies are made with dried fruits and spices (mincemeat.) It's difficult to explain exactly what a mince pie tastes like, and if you don't like raisins, you won't like them. Mince pies can be eaten baked or bought straight from the store. Personally, I prefer mince pies straight from the oven.
7. Egg nog
The number one question I've gotten over the holiday season besides "You're American? So...Trump?" is what is egg nog. Tesco carries egg nog, but don't expect everyone in Ireland to have tried this delicious beverage. You'll find it's rather difficult to explain what egg nog is to someone who's never had it. "It's like a thick milk dairy ice-cream whipped cream thing." "Oh, so like a milkshake?" "Yeah...but not really."
8. Holiday beverage
Mulled wine is really big here, which is essentially really good and really hot apple cider. My mulled wine drinks were at church functions and consequently were all non-alcoholic, but you can of course buy an alcoholic version if you so choose.
9. Sweets and treats
I doubt there's one country in the world that doesn't enjoy treats for Christmas, and Ireland is no different. Family Circle biscuits are quite possibly some of the best cookies ever, and extremely addicting. Celebrations sweets (candy) are addicting, as they include small Mars bars, Twix, Teasers, Milky Ways and Galaxy chocolates - my new favorite chocolate. There are also Cadbury goodies like Mini Rolls, which is sort of like a Little Debbie Swiss Roll, but so much better.
10. I'm dreaming of a misty Christmas
It doesn't snow. Okay, so it snows occasionally, like every several years, and some parts of Ireland do become white, but if you're looking for a white Christmas, you won't find it here. Surprisingly, the sun was out for most of Christmas Day, and thankfully I got to enjoy it - before it was lost to the pouring rain.