The end of each year is a furor of friends, family, food and frenzied flyer flipping for strategic shopping maneuvers. This season, relax—pack your bags and take a destination vacation. Create a homey holiday haven by immersing yourself in the familiar, yet foreign, traditions of Ireland. The western world shares many similarities in the celebrations and traditions of Christmas and New Year with Ireland, but there are also cultural disparities that combined, provide the comfort of home and a spark of something new.
A car rental with Auto Europe allows you to tour this wintry cityscape and beyond to experience the bountiful culture and landscape of this beautiful country.
HIT THE SWITCH
In the states, the holidays can bring out the competitive spirit of many friends and neighbors which culminates in crowd-drawing, visual spectacles of luminescence. Folks take leisurely driving tours to “ooh” and “ah” over the electrifying and sometimes garish, results of these one-ups. There will be strings of twinkling lights tastefully twined about lampposts, adorning snug homes and businesses and draped across streets and walkways, but while you shouldn’t expect quite the level of ostentatious display you’d see at home, there are local alternatives that you’re sure to find fascinating in Dublin.
The opening to the season is the yuletide lighting, or in colloquial terms, “Switch On”. In fact, there are three separate dates and locations for these events in Dublin, taking place on Grafton Street, Henry Street and O’Connell Street where the Lord Mayor presides. These involve spirited holiday entertainment, merchant stalls, food and beverages that create a cohesive merry-making party. Whether you attend one, or all, you’re sure to leave brimming with the holiday spirit!
DECK THE MALLS
The chaotic malls experience is replaced by quaint Irish Christmas Markets. Indulge in sampling mulled wine, hot chocolate, savory pies and sugary pastries. The Docklands Christmas Market situated near George’s Dock is set to reflect the markets of continental Europe. You’ll find anything from carefully handcrafted toys and goods created by local artisans to international objects of wonder and delight. No holiday is complete without the accompaniment of festive music. Various carolers, bands and musicians will be setting the tone for the market. In the famous Temple Bar section and in nearby Dun Laoghaire, additional purchases may be made at their respective markets. As different craftsman will be at each market, keep your car rental at the ready so you may easily visit each one and have a secure place to stow your new treasures.
TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
While the Americanization of milk and cookies is creeping into commonality in Ireland, it is traditional for a pint or a bottle of Guinness and a mince pie to be left for St. Nick. Whatever you decide, I’ve little doubt that Father Christmas will be appreciative of the offering.
Christmas stockings should be placed on the Christmas tree to receive small gifts and the lion’s share of the presents left at the end of the bed. If something is particularly ungainly, it should be placed unwrapped under the tree.
A candle set in windows has both a religious and secular history. In a time when the ways of hospitality were still respected, a candle lit in the window was a beacon of welcome that leads strangers in the dark of night. For those of faith, it signified the welcoming of the Holy Family. Beeswax tapers have given way to electric lights, but you may still add a little light for the beauty or the history of it.
TAKING THE PLUNGE
Wintry water plunges for a charitable cause have grown in popularity internationally. Join the Dubliners for the Forty Foot Christmas Dip into the Irish Sea at Sandycove that occurs annually Christmas Day. To say the water is brisk is as descriptive of the chill as you should get if you do not want to be labeled a sissy at this year round swimming spot. Just keep you car rental running with the heat on high to plunge into the warmth at the end of your dip. It is not uncommon for swimmers to come costumed in anything from superhero outfits to Santa hats, which adds an extra layer of fun and humor to the sport.
The day after Christmas may be a retailer’s nightmare, as it signifies the beginning of return season, but in Ireland, it is Lá an Dreoilín, the Hunting of the Wren’s, or Wren’s Day. “Wrenboys” dressed in brilliant colors and straw historically would hunt and capture a live wren.The head of the troupe would then attach the wren to the top of the staff and the group, followed by a céilí band, would parade through the town asking for “a pennyor a tuppence” receiving a lucky feather in exchange. The collected funds would be used to host a dance the same evening with the center of attention being the wren carrying pole (and the wren itself), festooned with ribbons and other decorations. In modern day, a live bird has been replaced with an effigy, although the pole is still central to the event, and there are no longer gender discriminatory practices in the search or parade. In fact, many adults participate in the various aspects of activities. There is more to learn about the culture of Hunt the Wren Day, but to gain that knowledge, I recommend active participation!
FOR AULD LANG SYNE
New Years is the symbolic climax to a year that leads to self-reflection and resolutions of new beginnings. Dublin’s People’s Procession of Light is a vibrant, costumed, extravaganza with a spirited processional, musical and theatrical performances. The streets of Dublin will be overrun , so you’ll want to park your rental car for the duration and hoof-it for the day. The countdown concert incorporates 3-D projections, as the stage hosts four hours of diverse Irish entertainment. As the official countdown to a New Year commences, the sky will brighten with explosions of light as the fireworks display illuminate the cityscape.
With an Auto Europe car rental, the road is open to adventure in Ireland. It’s fast and easy to rent a car in Dublin by dialing 1-888-223-5555 or you may book a rental car online in three easy steps.
There is so much more that the Irish offer in symbolism, history and culture that I have only grazed the surface. It is more than worth your while to make the journey and experience Ireland for yourself this holiday season, to more truly understand the dynamic and vibrant people and past.