We’re nearing the end of our Expat Christmas trek around the globe, and today we’re lucky to have Alex and Bell of Wanderlust Marriage with us! Read on to find out how they cooked Christmas dinner without an oven and why you might see the Irish running backwards in tacky sweaters just before the big day. If you’ve missed any of the fascinating (really!) Expat Christmas posts, you can catch up here.
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Christmas in Ireland: Food, Friends, and the 12 Pubs of Christmas
Alex and I are coming up on Christmas number 6 in Europe! This has meant no family in the same international dialing code for either of us for quite some time now. Some of these past Christmases have been more memorable than others, that is for sure.
Our first in Europe was spent in our apartment in Amsterdam. That one was unforgettable… why you ask? Because we didn’t have a full size oven, as many apartments in Amsterdam are too small for such luxuries! So we popped our little convention oven in the living room, and roasted our dinner in there while we used the kitchen stove top to make our sides. It was cold, and it was just the 2 of us… but we had a lovely day. That year we also discovered the joys of European Christmas markets and Glühwein (mulled wine), which remains for us the best part of a European Christmas.
Last Christmas was spent here in our new home of Ireland. We crammed 4 other expats who were in town into our living room and enjoyed a fun afternoon of over eating, drinking and being merry! Both the Netherlands and Ireland are fairly similar to our home countries of America and Australia in that Christmas Day is a public holiday and people generally spend the day with their families eating.
While there are many similarities there are fun differences too. The Netherlands does things quite a bit differently, with Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet who come and deliver presents on the 5th of December. Yet Christmas Day is still a public holiday where many go to visit and eat with their families.
Ireland does Christmas pretty much as we would expect in our home countries. However, we enjoy watching the pre-Christmas Day tradition of the 12 pubs of Christmas. This is a fairly new trend in Ireland, where a group of friends put on cheesy Christmas sweaters (the best we’ve seen depicted the nativity scene!) and completes a pub crawl that involves… yep you guessed it, 12 pubs! There can be drinking rules, so if you are visiting Dublin around this time of year and see a bunch of people running backwards with Christmas sweaters on, they are probably on route to the next pub! Also, if they are hanging from a lamp post, try to lift you up on the street, throw you in a friendly head lock in a pub or are walking around the bathroom with their pants below their waist as their friend is badgering them for the pub map, you are probably witnessing these festivities. Yes, we’ve seen and experienced all this in Dublin for the 12 pubs.
While these are entertaining and different traditions to get involved in, being an expat abroad during the holidays isn’t always fun. While Alex and I always have each other, a Christmas tree, lights and something delicious to eat on Christmas day, it can be a little lonely. In the years that we have been gone we haven’t been able to fly to either of our homes for Christmas. The closest we came was the year we went to Greece where Alex’s extended family lives; his dad was also in Greece at the same time. We’d probably argue this was the best Christmas we’ve had in the past 6 years as we shared it with loved ones… Alex and I can be a wee bit sentimental!
Alex and Bell are an American and Australian husband and wife traveling team, who met over 10 years ago in a dingy, but raucous hostel in Bruges, Belgium. Follow their adventures on Wanderlust Marriage or find them here on Twitter.Photo credits for Expat Christmas graphic here and here.