Many of us spent this holiday season at home, across the country or perhaps somewhere a little more exotic. Romance author Lila Dubois celebrated Christmas in Dublin, where she experienced a variety of cultural festivities. Today the author shares how her Irish Christmas differed from her holiday celebrations in the U.S.:

My connection with Ireland is through my husband, who is an Irish farm boy. I’ve spent more time in rural Ireland than I have in the capital, so it’s only right that I’ve developed the same sort of vague contempt for citizens of Dublin—Dubs—as my in-laws. To be fair, this contempt is entirely reciprocal.

In Ireland they don’t have Thanksgiving to start the Christmas season. Instead the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (of the Blessed Virgin Mary), December 8, is the (un)official start of Christmas. Traditionally that’s the day that all the country folk, or culchies as they are pejoratively called, come to Dublin to do their Christmas shopping. Grafton Street, which is a pedestrian only street, and famous for its buskers, is at the center of the shopping. If you saw the movie Once you’ll recognize Grafton Street.

Here’s a photo I took on Grafton Street. The street itself is so jammed with people there wasn’t much to see but the back of people’s heads, but you can see the beautiful lights they’ve hung:

Ireland is a bilingual country. Everything from road signs to laws are written in both Irish and English. In the lights you can see they’ve spelled out “Nollaig Shona Duit.” This is pronounced “Null-ugh Hawn-a Ditch” and means Merry Christmas to You. Nollaig is “Christmas”, shona is “happy”, and duit is “to you.”

There are plenty of people out playing Christmas music, and school choirs singing and raising money for various charities, so there’s music all the way from O’Connell Street across the river, past Trinity College, straight through to Grafton Street, and St. Stephen’s Green. I think Grafton Street itself is the best for walking and window shopping, but the prices, especially in euro, were too rich for me. No matter where you go in the city right now there’s music, and I found it much nicer than the piped in Christmas top forty tunes I’m used to from malls in the US.

The tree at the end of Grafton, near St. Stephen’s Green.

One thing I saw in Dublin that I personally hadn’t ever seen before were kids in secondary school (highschoolers) who sleep out on the streets to help raise awareness and funds for the homeless. It’s not warm in Dublin at night in winter, so this really is something. I gave money hoping that meant they could go home, but alas even after my donation they stayed there, bundled up like little Irish Stay Puff Marshmallow teenagers.

At five pm the city is full of grumpy commuters, same as in any other large city, but Dublin never seems to lose its sense of humor or whimsy. Don’t believe me? Look what I spotted at the foot of one of the pedestrian bridges over the River Liffey:

- Lila Dubois

Be sure to stop by the RT Daily Blog tomorrow to read about how Lila Dubois' trip to Ireland inspired her new Irish-set contemporary romance, The Harp and the Fiddle, available digitally now!

Tags: RT Daily Blog
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