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The Candle in the Window & the Laden Table in Ireland at Christmas

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Leaving a Candle in the Window was a common tradition on Christmas Eve in Ireland. At its heart it was a symbol of hospitality signaling any stranger that they were welcome to the house and that none would be turned away.

For food and fire

And candlelight

The Travellers’ blessing

On us this night

Click here to hear "Óiche Chuain" (Silent Night) from the CD "The Spirit of Christmas" available here.

Single MP3 download available here (track 10)

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Other customs particular to Ireland was that of decorating the houses with holly; the more berries on the bush, the luckier it was considered to be, since it was a symbol of fertility and good luck for the year to come.

The Laden Table was a setting placed after the main meal on Christmas Eve, again as a symbol of hospitality to any stranger who might be in need of a meal. This was also customary on Brigid's Eve (Imbolc) or the Feast of Brigid.

THE CANDLE IN THE WINDOW

The Irish have long been known for their hospitality and the primary function of the candle in the window was both as a guide to Mary and Joseph on their way but also as a sign of welcome to any stranger who passed that they would not go without, espeically on the feast of the King.

This was also customary on the Feast of Brigid (Bridget), since on Brigid's eve, food was often left out, not only in welcome, but also in hopes that she might pass by the door. What better way to bring luck and blessings to a family than to encourage the saints and indeed the Mother of Jesus to pass by the door. The candle on Christmas Eve was truly more symbolic, since Mary was in fact thought to be more heavenly and unlikely to pass by. Brigid on the other hand, might actually pass by the door, and small pieces of cloth were often left outside in hopes that she would bless them (read more about Brigid and Brigid's eve here). These lovely country customs are a reflection of the sense of closeness people felt to many of the female saints. Women in particular, had a great affinity for Mary and Brigid.

Brigid was thought to have been the midwife of Christ and became known as the "Mary of the Gael."

Christmas Eve by Ruth and Celia Duffin

A cup of milk

And a wheaten-cake,

And a spark of fire

For the Travellers’ sake.

A door on the latch,

A light in the pane,

Lest the Travellers’ pass

In the wind and rain.

For food and fire

And candlelight

The Travellers’ blessing

On us this night

Escape, 1929