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  • Writer's pictureHugh MacMahon

How the Irish Christmas Menu Developed





How did the early Irish spend Christmas?

There seems to be little information available but we do know something of what the Normans added to the celebrations.  

A historian from that time, Giraldus of Wales, described Henry II’s first Christmas in Ireland in 1171.

The feast of Christmas was drawing near, very many of the princes of the land repaired to Dublin to visit the King’s court, and were much astonished at the sumptuousness of his entertainments and the splendour of his household; and having places assigned to them at the tables in the hall, by the King’s command, they learnt to eat cranes which were served up, a food they before loathed’. And so before the goose and the turkey there were cranes!

In 1600 a sophisticated Englishman, Fyney Moryson, served in Ireland and commented on Irish Christmases:   

‘Yea, the wild Irish in time of greatest peace impute covetousness and base birth to him that hath any corn left after Christmas, as it were a point of nobility to consume all within those festival days. They willingly eat the herb shamrock, being of a sharp taste, which, as they run and are chased to and fro, they snatch like beasts out of the ditches.’ And so before Brussel sprouts there were shamrocks in the Christmas menu!

In 1644 the Puritans in London wanted to ban Christmas entirely and by 1650 soldiers were sent from house to house to enforce this ban and arrest revellers. Thankfully, that did not catch on.

A Happy Christmas to All! Hugh.

 

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