What are the differences between America and Ireland at Christmas?


I am asked this question a lot, so I thought I would blog a wee entry and attempt an answer…what are the differences between Christmas in America and Christmas in Northern Ireland? What makes Christmas on each side of the Atlantic unique? Are there any similarities? What weird things do Irish people do at this time of year that Americans don’t..or vice versa?  🙂 

Well, firstly, you actually may be surprised to learn that the cultures are quite similar. The pop culture part of Christmas in America and in the UK and Ireland is the very same. The north pole, elves, snowmen, red nosed reindeer, strange bearded men in red suits invading your home through the chimney, that sort of thing. Yes, that’s all the very same. The stores all have the same marketing gimmicks, the TV commercials are all quite similar…so what are the differences I here you cry? Well, below is a few (with my tongue firmly in cheek!):

  • Irish people eat turkey and goose for Christmas dinner

Yes, because there is no Thanksgiving feasting a few short weeks before Christmas, Irish people all generally eat large stuffed turkeys at Christmas, unlike many of their of American cousins who are thoroughly sick of the large gobbling bird by the time December rolls around.

  • underwhelming Christmas decorating

In Northern Ireland the vast majority of families put a Christmas tree up in their living rooms. but that’s it! Hard to believe eh? No Griswold style home lighting theatrics, no lighted reindeer in the garden, no inflatable snowmen, just a sad little tree in the living room. (Pathetic! I hear you cry!)

 Of course in America the outdoor lighting is becoming quite spectacular, and fascinating…just like the photo above that I took in my neighborhood tonight. Our very creative neighbors put together a winter wonderland complete with glistening reindeer drinking by a blue lighted stream…superb indeed!

  • Christmas crackers, silly hats and terrible jokes

Yes, those wonderful British Christmas crackers are a vital part of any Christmas dinner in Northern Ireland, followed by the wearing of those silly paper hats and renditions of the worst jokes ever!

  • Brandy fueled Christmas pudding

This is a nice one, but in many Irish and British homes, the final ending to the Christmas meal is the presentation of the Christmas pudding where a spoonful of heated brandy is lit and poured over the delicacy to great effect!

  • Christmas is called Christmas

OK, this one sounds funny, but it’s true. The UK is a very diverse country, but somehow Christmas is called Christmas and all the PC gymnastics don’t exist over there.

  • The day after Christmas is called Boxing Day, and St. Stephens Day

In America the day after Christmas is…well, nothing but the 26th, whereas in Northern Ireland this day is very special. It’s Boxing Day! A big day for sporting events (soccer games) enjoyed with lashings of left over turkey! In the Republic of Ireland the day has a slightly religious touch being St. Stephen’s day…

  • Irish people actually like fruit cake

Hard to believe, I know…but the American Christmas cookie thing didn’t make it across the pond. Over there Santa is offered fruit cake in compensation for his amazing feats!

  • The Queen’s speech

Oh yes, at 3pm or so all stops to listen to what dear old Liz has to say. Actually, this is quite a nice thing. The Queen normally has interesting things to say in that wonderful clipped accent she has…then it’s back to the turkey!

  • No eggnog

Irish people generally don’t know what this is, so cousin Eddie would be drinking sherry in Ireland from his silly glass…not eggnog.

  • …and lastly, the Christmas sweater is not a joke!

Yup, Irish people spend 9 months of the year wearing sweaters (or jumpers, as they’re called) so, strange designs are not uncommon!

 OK, I could go on and on…but that’s it. Remember, this is just a bit of  ‘tongue-in-cheek’ fun, so please excuse me!

 Hope your Christmas plans are coming together…and look out for a fantastic recipe idea I am planning to make your Christmas dinner special, which I will be posting shortly, so , stay tuned!

 …but in the meantime here’s a wonderful photo of my youngest son in front of our porch Christmas tree. This reminds me about the joy of this season! Enjoy!

Judie the Irish Foodie!


7 thoughts on “What are the differences between America and Ireland at Christmas?

  1. I love this post!!! I am British living here in NC and can totally relate! My hubby is American and we have lived over there also so can relate to both worlds. I am excited to try your recipes, having just discovered you through Andrea’s blog. They look amazing and I love to bake and cook too.


    • Thanks Naomi, looking forward to comparing notes and trading recipes as immigrants in this great land! Have a happy Christmas….hope your hubby enjoys the Christmas pud if you’re having one!

      Blessings to you also,

  2. Bit late in finding this post – but better late than never!

    A few I would add – mince pies and pantos!

    Hope you had a wonderful Christmas – so do you do the traditional Norn Iron thing or a hybrid mix of Ulster and the US?

  3. i love this post as well i do not know what eggnog is and i love fruitcake and i have no Christmas decor in or on my house except a tree

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