The Similarities and Differences of Christmas in Ireland

Greenheart Travel high school abroad student celebrating the holidays in Ireland.

Christmas while studying in Ireland was a lot like Christmas at home. Family, friends, a Christmas tree, lots of food, and gifts. But there were a few Irish things that stuck out to me. Firstly, the Christmas dinner. It reminded me a lot of Thanksgiving dinner back home. Turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and vegetables. It was of course very tasty.

Another thing was the lighting of the lights in the town. This happened at the beginning of December and I went to it with my friends. There was live music, free food, fireworks and these interesting puppet-like things of Mr. and Mrs. Claus. It wasn’t a long event, and it was cold. Also, because this is Ireland, it started to rain during it. But, that didn’t prevent us from having a good time.

Festive holiday costumes in Ireland.

Celebrating the holidays in Ireland. Photo by Kayla Trowbridge.

Something else that was quite different than the usual, for me at least, were the school celebrations. Having attended a public school for my entire life, I never had any sort of school-wide Christmas event. But because this is a Catholic school, we had a big Christmas party of sorts on the last day of school.

I spent New Year’s Eve with two of my fellow foreign students. It was a relaxed and enjoyable evening. We were all pretty tired though, so we were in bed by one!

A decorated Christmas tree in Ireland.

A decorated Christmas tree in Ireland. Photo by Kayla Trowbridge.

I thought that I’d be incredibly homesick all Christmas break, but I really wasn’t. Not that I didn’t miss my family, of course I did. Christmas, for me, revolves around spending time with my family. So, of course being away from them was hard. But, I didn’t have the desire to sulk in my room or mope around by myself. I wanted to play with my host parents’ grandkids, and talk to my host family. I wanted to help make the Christmas dinner, and teach the kids how to play card games.  I did all that, and I had an amazing Christmas.

Sure, watching children that weren’t my siblings opening presents and yelling for us to wake up at ten past six in the morning was difficult, and yes, it was strange to sit around a table without my cousins and eat a Christmas meal. But, it didn’t ruin my Christmas. I still had fun and it will be a Christmas I will always look back on and smile at the memory.


Kayla Trowbridge is 16 years old and lives in Zionsville, Indiana. Her goal during her study abroad program is to “create relationships that will continue throughout my life and develop a new understanding of the Irish culture.” Follow Kayla’s adventure in Ireland on her blog post updates throughout her program.

Have you celebrated the holidays abroad? Tell us about your experience below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *