A Grand Irish Christmas: Traditions in Great Houses of the Past

Christmas in Ireland has always been a time of warmth, merriment, and tradition. One of the most cherished aspects of this festive season is the rich tapestry of customs that have been observed in the great houses of the country.

Christmas in great irish houses

A Timeless Celebration

Irish Christmas traditions in great houses have a timeless allure. These historic estates, with their grandeur and opulence, offered the perfect backdrop for the most magical time of the year. From the 18th century onwards, Christmas in these magnificent homes was marked by a blend of opulence and old-world charm.

Deck the Halls

One of the most iconic features of the Christmas season in great Irish houses was the decoration of grand halls and rooms. Immense Christmas trees, adorned with candles, fruits, and handmade ornaments, took center stage. The fragrance of fresh evergreens filled the air, and roaring log fires added to the cozy atmosphere. Russborough undoubtedly embraced this tradition with grandeur.

Christmas in these magnificent homes was marked by a blend of opulence and old-world charm.

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The Kissing Bough in the 18th Century House

Ever been enticed under a sprig of mistletoe for someone to steal a kiss? Well this modern-day practice of kissing under the mistletoe stems from the earlier traditional decoration: the Kissing Bough. Often hung from the ceiling, the bough consisted of a ball of twigs and evergreens decorated with holly, seasonal fruits, such as apples, a crown of candles and finished with a bunch of mistletoe, under which no lady could refuse any respectable suitor a kiss.

A Feast Fit for Royalty

Christmas dinners were extravagant affairs. Lavish feasts that included a succulent roast turkey, goose, or ham were common. Fine china and silverware were meticulously arranged, and multiple courses were served. Russborough, renowned for its grand dining room, would have hosted splendid feasts that epitomised luxury and indulgence.

Caroling and Entertainment

Entertainment was a vital part of the Christmas celebrations in these grand houses. Talented musicians and carolers were often invited to perform, filling the halls with festive melodies. Candlelit concerts, dances, and recitals were held, bringing joy and mirth to the residents and their guests.

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Generosity and Giving

Christmas was a time for generosity and charity. Many great house owners organised charitable events and distributed gifts to the less fortunate. The spirit of giving was a cherished tradition, and the grand houses, including Russborough, played a role in enhancing the well-being of their local communities during the festive season.

Candlelit Processions

Candlelit processions, where the family and their guests paraded through the house, were a mesmerising sight. These processions often ended at a beautifully decorated chapel or church on the estate, where a Christmas Eve service was held, bringing the family and their staff together in a heartwarming display of unity and faith.

Christmas decor

The Christmas traditions of Ireland's great houses of the past like Russborough, reflect a unique blend of opulence, tradition, and generosity. These estates, steeped in history and charm, provided a magical setting for celebrating the Christmas season. While times have changed, the spirit of these traditions still resonates in the hearts of those who appreciate the rich cultural heritage of Ireland.