Though the winter months in Ireland can be pretty quiet--cities, villages & towns come alive around the holidays. Christmas is a magical time in Ireland offering a range of holiday entertainment from ice skating with Santa to traditional Christmas caroling throughout the country. Every town of size will have some form of month long celebration that could include Christmas markets & fairs, live concerts or plays. Bing Crosby even crooned about the magic of Christmas in Ireland with his holiday song “Christmas in Killarney”!
TO NAME A FEW:
The longest running market in Ireland is Galway’s “Christmas in Galway” (formally Galway Continental Christmas Market). Set in Eyre Square Centre from November 20- December 22, vendors from all over Ireland & Europe will be selling a host of crafts, Christmas gifts, festive foods & sweet treats. Festivalgoers can enjoy choirs & carolers, live music & entertainment, Santa’s grotto or visit the popular German Bierkeller that offers a wide range of traditional German Beers and Oktoberfest activities.
Visitors to Dublin can experience Ireland’s 1st annual ‘winter food & drink, craft & horticulture festival’. Inspired by Rockefeller Center’s famous tree lighting celebration, the “I Believe” festival is anticipated to become Ireland’s most iconic Christmas tree & holiday festival. This magnificent 50-foot tree will play center stage to this exciting 28-day festival. The inaugural tree lighting ceremony is set for November 26 and free to the public. The “I Believe” festival will starts November 26 through January 1.
Waterford city’s Christmas festival & market, “Winterval” is packed with seasonal events and unique activities all set in beautiful heritage sites around the city. Visitors can enjoy rides on a vintage Ferris wheel or carousal or take a magical tour of the city aboard a shire-drawn horse sleigh. This exciting festival is held November 20 to December 23.
Santa will lead a parade of magical floats through Killarney’s lighted streets every Saturday from November 28 to December 19 (and again on New Year’s Eve!). Those who fancy a run (or walk) can join other Santa hatted runners in the ‘Santa’s 5K Fun Run’.
Organizers of the largest Christmas market in Northern Ireland’s Belfast city, “The Belfast Continental Christmas Market” transforms the grounds of City Hall into a magical winter wonderland. Held daily from November 14 to December 20, visitors can enjoy a fantastic range of food & beverages like German sausages or Dutch pancakes, Glüwein, hand-made crafts, pottery & holiday decorations from across Europe and beyond. Weekend visitors can head to the famous St. Georges Market, an award winning covered Victorian market, that hosts a month-long Christmas market offering the best seasonal food, tastes and smells brought by the best local producers in Northern Ireland. Towns throughout Northern Ireland host weekend Christmas markets—from Enniskillin to Ballycastle. Not to be left out of the celebration, many restaurants and pubs offer special dining and drink menus during the holiday season.
Ireland’s Christmas culture can be felt throughout the country and there are no shortages of holiday activities in which to join. It is a true magical experience for tourists and locals alike.