Recipes for Celebrating The 12 Days of Christmas In Ireland
The Emerald Isle
A Partridge in a Pear Tree
Fun For Teachers and Home Schoolers
"Exploring Discrete Mathematics" - Figure out the cost of all of the gifts on the 12 Days of Christmas!
Link for worksheets and the lesson plan provided free by Rutgers University: A Partridge In a Pear Tree.
The Christmas Codes and Secrets
Traditionally, the Irish have celebrated the 12 Days of Christmas from Christmas Eve on December 24 all the way through January 6, plus Handsels Day, upon which children receive additional small presents called handsels. This makes 13 Days of Christmas. Some of the days are Catholic Saints' Feast Days and some are simply additional celebrations to tie all the days together. Twelfth Night takes us right into the Mardi Gras Season in New Orleans, with parties and costumes weekly until the week of Fat Tuesday before Lent. That week, parades and costume balls occur nightly, with the largest being on Tuesday. Given all that, you might say that the Christmas Season is about three months long!
Don't miss the recipes below, because they are easy to make and fun to use for Christmas.
The 12 Days of Christmas as a song became a code - The Christmas Code beginning in the times when Christmas and Catholicism were banned as illegal in England (and therefore Ireland at the time) from 1558 to 1829. For over 70 years, the song contained a code for the celebration of Jesus Christ in open secret, until Parliament lifted the ban.
Traditions As a Code
Holiday and seasonal traditions observed within cultures other than our own often seem like a code of a secret society, until we become familiar with them, their origins, and various meanings. As serendipity, however, it seems that some Christmas traditions observed at school and at home during my childhood were Irish. As an adult I also learned that our European ancestors lived in England, Ireland, and Scotland and not entirely in England.
More About the Long Christmas Season
- Meaning and Tradition: The Twelve Days of Christmas, An Irish Code and 12th Night
"The Twelve Days of Christmas" is more than a song. It was a lifeline when Christmas was banned. For many years, Christmas was illegal in England the the American Colonies - even the trademark mince pie was criminalized. The way to celebrate and reme
- Christmas Is the Biggest Holiday For the Amish
- What is Epiphany or Little Christmas or Twelfth Night
Twelve Drummers Drumming are tenets of the Nicene Creed and characters in the beloved Christmas carol
You may have electric "candles" in your windows or elsewhere in the house during Christmastime. In Ireland, it is customary to place thick white candles or electric lights shaped like candles in each window of the house during this season. The light guides the hungry and homeless to shelter, while it commemorates the expectation of the human race for Mary and Joseph in the stable to bring forth the Christ child.
Further, on December 24th, milk and Irish bread are left on the dining room table with a lit candle, along with lighted candles in the windows -- The door is left unlocked so that any hungry, lonely person may enter and eat. This is to remember that Mary and Joseph found no room at the inn and that Irish homes would welcome them in today.
Apparently, in some parts of Ireland, children put out large bags rather than stockings for gifts on December 24th, and leave Father Christmas some mince pies and a bottle of Guinness.
Another Irish tradition during the 12 Days of Christmas from December 25th through Twelfth Night is making pillowcases on January 1st for good fortune and continued work/income. (The link tells some of the story.) Some say that the pillowcase is made to hold the large fortunes coming in the new year.
On St. Stephen's Day (December 26th, or Boxing Day in the UK and elsewhere), a tradition of boys carrying a dead wren (today, an artificial wren) in a basket or on the end of a stick and seeking donations throughout town to save the hungry wren is still observed. This is like trick or treat with money given instead fo candies, and seemingly only for boys and not girls. Adults watch football (soccer) and horse racing on TV.
Bing Crosy Christmas Carols - Hollywood Palace: Dec. 24, 1966. Bing, Kathryn, Harry, Mary, and Nathaniel Crosby
The Code Before Religious Freedom
The 12 Days of Christmas from December 25th - January 5th-6th (12th Night and the beginning of the Mardi Gras season that extends to Fat Tuesday before Lent).
- Day - A Partridge in a Pear Tree represented Jesus Christ, God's Gift to each of His children (the Church). The partridge is depicted as a female - a mother bird that lures danger away from her babies. Some say that the tree represents the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden
- Day - Two turtle doves: The Old Testament and the New Testament.
- Day - Three French hens: Faith, Hope, and Love, from the Bible (1 Corinthians 13).
- Day - Four calling birds = The Four Evangelists that wrote the Four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
- Day - Five Golden Rings symbolize the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament.
- Day - Six geese laying eggs = 6 Days of Creation.
- Day - Seven swans simming = The Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
- Day - Eight maids milking cows = The Beatitudes, given by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount.
- Day - Nine ladies dancing = The Fruit(s) of the Spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22-23.
- Day - Ten lords leaping are the Ten Commandments.
- Day - Eleven pipers piping represent the Eleven Apostles that stayed faithful or returned to faith (Peter, Thomas), but not Judas.
- Day - The 12 drummers drumming represent the twelve tenets of the Apostles' Creed.
IRISH SPICED & PRESSED BEEF
This meat needs to be marinated for two weeks before cooking.
- 4 Pounds of Lean Brisket (Beef)
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 1Tbsp whole juniper berries
- 1 Tbsp whole allspice
- 1 Tbsp. whole black peppercorns
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 3/4 cup cold water
- Using your fingers press brown sugar down into the beef like a dry rub on all sides.
- Put meat into a large casserole dish, cover, and set in refrigerate for two days. Do not stir.
- To make an additional dry rub, crush juniper berries, allspice, peppercorns, and salt all together.
- Once a day every day for 9 days, press 1 Tbsp of the second dry rub over the meat surface and return to the refrigerator.
- On Day 12, preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.
- Rinse the beef under cold water to remove excess dry rub. Pour off the brine.
- Return the beef to the casserole dish and add the water.
- Cover the dish and bake 3.5 hours until meat is tender. Remove from oven, let sit 20 minutes to rest and wrap in foil.
- Put a heavy platter or board on top of the meat and weigh it down with something heavy. Refrigerate the weighted meat overnight to press it.
- Carve the beef very thin and serve with bread and butter.
Irish Gifts of Food
- 1 1/2 Cups flour
- 1 stick butter
- 3/4 cup sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Soften butter on the countertop.
- Cut butter into flour and rub into flour with fingers. It should now look like meal or cracker crumbs.
- Add sugar and mix well..
- Grease bottom and sides of an 8” square or round pan with butter and dust with flour.
- Press the dough strongly into the bottom of pan- That’s what makes it “short.”
- Bake 30 minutes. Remove pan from oven to a towel on the counter.
- Quickly cut the shortbread with a sharp blade into shapes while warm and sprinkle with sugar, which will set as the shortbread cools.
- Set aside to cool in the pan or it will crumble. Enjoy!
IRISH SODA BREAD
- 2 Cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp EACH salt, cream of tartar, and baking soda
- 1/2 Cup buttermilk, or more to form a wet dough
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- 1/8 Cup sugar
- 1/4 Cup raisins
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Sieve together flour, salt, cream of tartar & baking soda.
- Cut in the butter; add sugar and raisins and mix well.
- Add buttermilk to form an overall damp, stretchy dough.
- Cover a bread board with flour and knead the dough 5 minutes.
- Make an oval, roll it in flour, and out it in a floured baking pan.
- Flatten the bread to 1.5 inches tall in the pan.
- Bake 30 minutes until a knife blade inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Serve hot or cold, with the spiced pressed beef.