Christmas in 19th century Ireland
I love Christmas! From decorating the house to preparing delicious Christmas treats, wrapping presents and spending time with family, I love the festive season. Which is why it's no surprise that I like to include Christmas scenes in my books - and what fun it is to research the topic too! For a glimpse into what it may have been like celebrating Christmas in 19th century Ireland, here's an excerpt from Book Two in the Irish Fortune Series. In this scene, Alannah is talking to young Benjamin, a former street urchin who has come to live at Glaslearg and is experiencing Christmas for the first time...
[I placed] a hand on Benjamin’s arm. “What has been your favourite part so far?”
His eyes went wide at the question. “Oh, I couldn’t possibly say, mum. But maybe…” He skipped towards the staircase and pointed at the greenery adorning the banister. “Makin’ everythin’ look nice, I think!” He nodded madly before being distracted by the delicious smell of roasting meat. “Or maybe the food.” He smacked his lips and took a few quick steps in the direction of the kitchen. “Yes, the food, definitely the food!”
Following his nose across the entrance hall, he passed a small table set in an alcove, which sported a miniature nativity scene made of straw and wood, surrounded by candles of varying sizes. “Oh, but the candles,” he exclaimed, dashing back towards me with gleaming eyes. “I never saw nothin’ like it. All the candles in the windows on the way t’ mass. It was like all the stars had fallen from the sky.” His face was filled with wonder in remembrance, making me smile.
It had been a sight to behold, indeed. With most poorer households relying on turf fires for light and warmth, the Irish countryside was usually black as pitch on a winter’s night. But with candles burning in every window on Christmas Eve, the scenery was transformed into something magical. Benjamin was not the only one to have been enchanted as he made his way to the church in the dark.
“And did ye know all the candles are lit by a girl called Mary?” he asked, wriggling his brows as he bounced up and down. “Mrs O’Sullivan told me so. Only if there’s no Mary, the youngest child gets t’ light them.—But there’s usually a Mary,” he assured me in a tone echoing exactly that of our cook.
I laughed. “It is a very common name.”
“D’ye think it’s because o’ the Blessed Virgin Mary?”
“I expect so.”
He nodded gravely. “And will we get a Mary t’ light these later?” he asked, rushing back to the small table and waving a hand over the unlit candles, almost causing one to topple.
He gave me a guilty look, making me lift one brow. “We might,” I said, “unless you would like to light them for us?—Carefully, of course.”
He puffed out his chest. “Could I really?” Not waiting for an answer, he darted towards the door to the drawing room, which sported an evergreen garland hanging across the top of the frame. “Then I can tell everyone I lit the candles and made this…” He touched the garland, causing it to swing lightly. “And did this…” He raced up the stairs to a decorated table on the landing. “And this…” He flew back down to a tall pottery vase containing spruce sprigs hung with ornaments. “And…argh…”
In his excitement he had bumped into the vase, barely managing to catch it before it shattered on the floor. Several ornaments flew across the entrance hall, scattering biscuit crumbs and berries across the tiles.
Still holding the vase at an angle, Benjamin stared at the mess with wide eyes, his mouth hanging open.
To read the rest of the section, get Beneath the Darkening Clouds now - the perfect time do so as both books in the Irish Fortune Series are available for FREE until 19 December! So download your copy of Under the Emerald Sky and Beneath the Darkening Clouds today!
Happy reading and have a wonderful festive season!
by Juliane Weber (@Writer_JW) 15 December 2022 [subscribe on the main page]
About Juliane Weber
Juliane is a scientist turned historical fiction writer, and author of the Irish Fortune Series. Her stories take readers on action-packed romantic adventures amid the captivating scenery and folklore of 19th century Ireland.
Visit Juliane’s website to find out more.
A sweeping love story in a troubled land.
Escape to 19th century Ireland in