Folklore of Little Christmas

The Photographic Collection, A015.03.00319
Image and data © National Folklore Collection, UCD.

Little Christmas is the twelfth night. There are generally 12 candles lit in every house. The candles are made out of rushes. The people get the rushes out of the bog and they peel them for the night, then at night they mix cowdung and ashes and they put the candles in it. Then they say the rosary. They leave the cake up on the rafters till the next year.

Little Christmas is on the 6th of January. It is sometimes called the 12th day by some people. On that day the holly which was up on the walls since Christmas is taken down and burnt on that day.

Little Christmas Day.

On Little Christmas Night twelve rush candles are made and are placed in a cow manure and each one in the family names a candle for himself. Then the family say the Rosary while the candles are burning and the person who owns the candle that goes out first dies first and the person who owns the candle that burns longest lives the longest.

The Big Wind, 1839

The Big Wind fell on Little Christmas night. A man by the name of Paddy Cronin who lived in Beal was in the house with his mother. The storm lifted the roof off the house. He took out his mother and tied her on to an ash tree, lest she would get hurt. While he was going back for some blankets to put around her from the cold, the tree was uprooted and there was not a trace of the tree or the woman to be found.

Irish New Year Traditions

The Photographic Collection, A015.07.00008
Image and data © National Folklore Collection, UCD.

On New Year’s Day the old people gave an extra sheaf of corn to the horses and cows, to make them work better, and give more milk for the coming year. The old people never threw anything out on New Year’s Day, but they kept all the leavings of tea in a bucket at the foot of the dresser. They did this so as to have a plentiness for the coming year. The water for the day after New Year’s day was brought in before mid-night on New Year’s Day. If anybody went to the well after that time he was drowned. If a person met a red-haired woman on New Year’s Day, he would have bad luck during the year. The Schools’ Collection, Volume 1034, Page 116


The first day in the new year is called New Year’s Day. It is a holiday of obligation, because it is the feast-day of the Circumcision of Our Lord.
Some people make new resolutions but they are generally broken before the year is out. It is said that whatever one does on New Year’s Day he will do it through the whole year.
It is the custom when people meet to each other a happy and prosperous New Year. On New Year’s Eve the Church bells, and the fog-horns of the boats and ships ring the old year out and the new year in at twelve o’clock.
There are some superstitions connected with New Year’s Day. Some people never throw out the ashes or the dish water because they say it will bring bad luck to the house.

The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0664, Page 251.


New Year Customs.

It would be very unlucky for a woman (especially a red-haired woman) to come in first on New Year’s Day. Bad luck for the year was certain. One of the boys of the house usually went out after twelve and returned again and wished everyone a Happy New Year saying
“Blow out the old,
Blow in the new,
Blow out the false
And blow in the true”
The ashes and sweepings were not thrown out on New Year’s Day or any water. People didn’t like to buy anything on that day – to put out any money at all on New Year’s day, they believed if they did, they would be spending during the year. If the wnd blew from the west on New Year’s Eve it was a good sign of the following year. If there is a flood in the (New Year’s Day), it was a sign of rising prices. It isn’t right to throw out water on New Year’s Night on Christmas Night or to go to the well after twelve o’clock on either night.

The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0117, Page 156.


In this locality there are many old customs connected with New Year’s Day and Little Christmas Day.

On New Year’s Day if a dark haired man enters your house first he brings good luck and you are supposed to give him a glass of wine or a leg of a turkey for bringing the good luck but if a girl enters your house first she brings bad luck.

If any person spends money on New Year’s Day they will be spending money the whole year round. On New Year’s Day if you meet a red haired woman you will have bad luck during the year and if you meet a red haired man you will have great luck. Before New Year’s Day each house should be cleaned and if this is not done the house will be dirty the whole year round. On New Year’s Day everyone is usually in time for Mass because if they are late they will whole year round.

On New Year’s Eve all church bells are rung to beat out the old year. On New Year’s Eve a procession is held in the town and pitch forks are carried with scooped turnips on the top of them in which a lighted candle is placed.

The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0207, Page 067.



NFSC, Vol.0664:251.School: Kilcurry, Dundalk. Teacher: P. Ó Conaill.

NFSC, Vol.0117:156, School: Páirc Íseal, Location: Lowpark, Co. Mayo. Teacher: Sorcha Ní Dhumhnaigh.

NFSC:Vol.1034:116. COLLECTOR: Teresa Cassidy. Address: Drumbar, Co. Donegal. INFORMANT: Hugh Cassidy. Address: Drumbar, Co. Donegal. School: Clochar Nuala, Dún na nGall. Location: Donegal, Co. Donegal. Teacher: An tSr. Eanda le Muire.

NFSC:Vol.0207:067, School: Drumshanbo (C), Location: Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim. Teacher: Margaret Flynn.