6 Irish traditions you should know about

Aoife O’Mara
Aoife O’Mara

23 September 2020 • 4 min read

Ireland is a country that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. However, it is safe to say that Ireland has its fair share of quirks. So, whether you’re coming to Ireland as part of an exchange programme, or pursuing a degree, there are certain traditions you should be aware of.

Traditions are the passing on of customs or beliefs from one generation to the next. They are ever-present in modern societies, although, a lot of the time those living in that country tend to forget they’re there. It is only when a visitor to the country points these traditions out that we begin to take notice. 

There are many Irish traditions to be aware of when coming to Ireland study, but these are our top six!

Not taking a compliment

Anyone who has spent some time in Ireland will tell you that Irish people don’t take comments particularly well. Humility is a trait that is widely valued and respected in Ireland, so the Irish find it difficult to accept compliments. They tend to fear that by accepting compliments, they will appear big-headed or narcissistic. Instead of saying “thank you” in response to the praise, Irish people will deflect the compliment, put themselves down or just out-right disagree. 

The Late Late Toy Show

Usually held on the first Friday of December, this annual television special is a hit with young and old alike. All Irish people have grown up watching this, and as such, it is an essential tradition in the lead up to Christmas. Children show off toys and gadgets that will be on many kids’ letters to Santa. There are usually a few mishaps, surprises and stories which makes for The Late Late Toy Show to be the ultimate drinking game for those adults watching at home!

 All Ireland Sunday

Irish people take sport very seriously, especially when their county is involved. During September Ireland’s national sports, hurling and Gaelic football, reach their peak. The counties involved in the finals become decorated with flags and banners of support. On match day, the streets and roads leading to Croke Park (Ireland’s largest sports stadium) are full of supporters who are excited about the match. Winning the all-Ireland is so coveted that schools and businesses in the winning county are often closed the day after due to the ongoing celebrations.

Twelve Pubs

Twelve pubs is a tradition in Ireland unlike any other and occur in the weeks leading up to Christmas. During this period bars and pubs in towns and villages across Ireland are jam-packed with drunk people wearing Christmas jumpers. This tradition is a twelve-part pub crawl and usually gets quite messy. It is not uncommon for people to participate in multiple 12 pubs over consecutive days. Sometimes it is more than just a pub crawl, as tasks or events may need to be completed in each pub.

Saying thanks to the bus driver

An Irish tradition that baffles those who witness it has to be thanking the bus driver. Although this is universally considered to be polite, or just common courtesy Irish people go above and beyond to thank the bus driver. Most buses in Ireland are equipped with a door halfway down the bus for exiting only. However, many Irish will make a point of heading up to the driver’s seat when leaving the bus. 

Women’s Little Christmas

A unique Irish tradition happens on January 6th every year, known as Women’s Little Christmas. This is a non-religious tradition in which Irish women are encouraged to gather together and relax after the lead up to Christmas. On this day women enjoy a break from household chores, while the men stay home and look after the household duties. In recent years gender stereotypes aren’t as reinforced as they once were so this Irish tradition has become a celebration of women.  

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Aoife O’Mara
Written By
Aoife O’Mara

Aoife is a freelance writer and journalist based in Ireland. She is passionate about travel, education and culture.


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