Celtic Roots of Santa Claus

Irish Christmas

Celtic Christmas

This Christmas I have been exploring the fascinating  ancient Celtic traditions of Christmas. So much of the Christmas festival we enjoy is a blend of ancient tradition and cultures that have somehow become meshed together over the centuries, and I thought you might find it interesting to know where some of these wonderful traditions we enjoy each year come from…

So, where or better to start with than Father Christmas?   It’s impossible to to point out one real Santa Claus because his origins are a culmination of Celtic and Scandinavian mythologies. An ancient blend of the Norse god Thor, who rode across the sky in a chariot drawn by goats giving gifts to children at the end of the year. Befana, a Roman goddess bearing gifts and the Celtic Winter god, the Holly King.

The Druid Holly King wore a Holly wreath as a crown and wore red.  Remind you of anyone? In Celtic Mythology, the Oak King (representing light) and the Holly King (representing darkness) were warrior twins, engaged in a never-ending battle for supremacy. Oak trees that are sacred to the Celts lose their leaves in Winter while the holly trees are ever green. But at the Winter Solstice the tides change, and the Oak King starts his new reign of dominance. To celebrate the Holly King’s midwinter dominance, we decorate our homes with holly and ivy-  didn’t know, huh?  The Holly King was rumored to have the power of transformation, renewal and rebirth and this may well be why we make new year’s resolutions? Interesting…

Judith and Santa

Santa Claus stopping by the Tourism Ireland booth

More Celtic stories to come…

Shamrock and Peach

Warming Soup for the Soul (Thanksgiving recipe)

Winter Root Vegetables

Warming Soups

It’s been raining all week in Georgia and days like today make me crave warm, nutritious root vegetable broths and soups. Warming comfort food for the soul…

Growing up on a farm in the countryside of Ireland, I was always close to the land and had access to fresh local root vegetables. I served Parsnip and Pear Ginger Soup at my last cooking class at Whole Foods over the weekend, and several students claimed they loved it so much that it would grace their Thanksgiving table next Thursday! – now that is a compliment!

Apples and pears are at their peak right now and their sweetness combines perfectly with the nutty earthy flavor of parsnips and heart warming spicy ginger. So, I wanted to share the recipe with my blog followers and I hope you stay warm and enjoy making some heart warming soups (that may even make it to your family table next week),

Here is the recipe:

Parsnip and Pear Ginger Soup

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 medium (1 cup) Vidalia onions (chopped)
  • 1 celery stick (3/4 cup diced)
  • 4 parsnips (4 cups peeled and diced)
  • 2 medium (1 ½ cups) pears (peeled and chopped)
  • 2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cups pear juice
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • (to garnish)
  • ½ pear (cut in to matchsticks)
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp of Crème Fraiche

How to make it

 In a large soup pot, melt the butter and sauté the onions, celery, parsnips, pears and grated fresh ginger over a medium to low heat, then over and cook until they are fragrant and beginning to color for another 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  1. Add the stock, pear juice, curry powder and salt and pepper and simmer for 25 minutes until all the ingredients are tender and the liquid has slightly reduced.   Taste to adjust seasoning.
  2. Using a hand blender puree the soup until smooth or use a food processor.
  3. To serve place 1 tsp of chopped pear in each warm bowl followed by the soup and then stir in a little creme fraiche.

With all my love

Shamrock and Peach (judith)




Fall in love with Ireland in 2019

We are delighted to announce next years itinerary release. We strive to hand pick the best accommodations and destinations we can find in Ireland for our guests, and many of you who have been on past tours with Shamrock and Peach, will recognize some of the amazing accommodations in this video.

Next year we are excited to deliver the same Luxury Ireland to our guests from the stunning Antrim Coast to the Dingle Peninsula. North, south, east and west. In our Legendary Ireland tour of the North and West of Ireland where we offer you the 5 star Culloden Hotel and Spa, the 5 star Lough Erne Hotel and Spa and the Luxury Boutique Twelve Hotel in the West, voted the best hotel in Ireland in 2018. On our Southern Ireland tour we offer you Mount Juliet Estate and Spa in Kilkenny and dining at the Mitchell Star Lady Helen restaurant, the 5 Star Castlemartyr Hotel and Spa in Cork with dining at Ballymaloe House, and the fabulous Killarney Royal Hotel, featured in Ireland’s blue book – the gold standard for historic luxury resorts in Ireland.

Please check out our website for more details:


Slainte… we are excited, very excited!


Shamrock and Peach