Vickie McDonough says, “Nollaig Shona Duit!”

That’s Irish for “Merry Christmas.” With Christmas quickly closing in on us, I thought I’d talk about my latest Christmas anthology and some of the Irish Christmas traditions I uncovered while researching my novella.

My first three fictions sales were for novellas. The way this works with my publisher is that an author comes up with an idea for an anthology then recruits three other authors to work with them.(One can be unpublished but three of the authors must already be established with my publisher) Once the anthology team is assembled, the group brainstorms ideas and decides in which direction they want to go and then a proposal is put together and submitted to the editor. Each author will write a 20,000 word novella. Sometimes these novella collections are very closely linked by family or town. Those require much more collaboration than ones linked only by theme.

A Bride by Christmas is my latest novella collection. The stories in it have several tie-ins:

1. One of the characters must marry by Christmas or something bad   
     will happen

2. The stories must be set on the prairie.

3. The heroines must not be American, but from another country
     and some of her Christmas traditions must be included in the

Here’s a blurb about my novella, An Irish Bride for Christmas:

When Jackson Lancaster’s brother and wife are killed in a stage holdup, he takes his three-year-old niece home. But a meddling busy-body makes the local judge give her custody, “because an unmarried man shouldn’t raise a little girl.” Now Jackson has until Christmas to find a bride or lose his niece forever. Larkin Doyle is grateful her employer took in the orphan and believes Jackson abandoned his niece. When her heart decides otherwise, will romance blossom?   

And here are some Irish Christmas traditions. There are many more, but these are the more widely known ones.


The placing of a lighted candle in the window of a house on Christmas Eve had a number of purposes, but primarily it was a symbol of welcome to Mary and Joseph as they traveled looking for shelter. The candle was a way of saying there was room for Jesus’ parents in these homes even if there was none in Bethlehem. The candle should be lit by the youngest member of the household and could only be extinguished by a girl bearing the name ‘Mary.’ (That could explain why that name used to be so popular)

THE LADEN TABLE:After the evening meal on Christmas Eve the kitchen table was again set and on it was placed a loaf of bread filled with caraway seeds and raisins, a pitcher of milk, and a large lit candle. The door to the house was left unlatched so that Mary and Joseph, or any wandering travelers, could avail of the welcome.

DECORATIONS:The placing of a ring of holly on doors originated in Ireland as holly was one of the main plants that flourished at Christmas time and gave the poor ample means with which to decorate their dwellings. All decorations are traditionally taken down on Little Christmas (January 6th.) and it is considered to be bad luck to take them down beforehand.


Roast goose, stuffed with potatoes and onions, pig’s head garlanded with curly cabbage, a piece of salt beef, and an abundance of potatoes was, and is, the never-changing menu in humble Irish households. In wealthier homes, rice pudding, plentifully sprinkled with currants, or plum pudding, was served. Among the more traditional Irish elements were spiced beef (spiced over several days, cooked, and then pressed) which can be served either hot or cold. The traditional dessert is usually composed of mince pies, Christmas pudding, and brandy or rum sauce.

Gift Giving and St. Stephen’s Day:

Before Christmas it was customary to give small gifts, usually of the cash variety, to deliverymen. Long ago, this was done on St. Stephen’s day, also known as Boxing Day (the day after Christmas). Traditionally, pantomime plays are performed on St. Stephen’s day, in which women play the men’s roles and vice-versa. In Dublin there are usually several plays going on with subjects including Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Puss in Boots, and Babes in the Wood.


During Penal Times there was once a plot in a village against the local soldiers. They were surrounded and were about to be ambushed when a group of wrens pecked on their drums and awakened the soldiers. The plot failed and the wren became known as ‘The Devil’s bird.’On St. Stephens’s Day a procession takes place where pole with a holly bush is carried from house to house and families dress up in old clothes and with blackened faces. This practice of antiquity predates St. Patrick. In ancient times, a wren was beaten out of the bushes and its body hung on a holly bush. The killing of a bird is no longer tolerated but the door to door visits continue. Participants dress up in homemade costumes reminiscent of North American Halloween. The song they yell from house to house is called: 


The wren, the wren,
the king of all birds

Most people treat the Wren Boys to porter and pudding. Any young people in the house are cajoled to continue on with the gang until there is a decent assembly of young folk being followed by most of the children in the neighborhood. They will end up in some neighbor’s house, and if someone produces a fiddle, the party begins.

Irish Christmas traditions draw to a close on January 6th. The 12 days of the Irish Christmas season mark the twelve days between the birth of Christ and the arrival of the “Three Wise Men”, the Magi. January 6th is the day of the feast of the Epiphany. It is called “Little Christmas” in Ireland, Nollaig Bheag in Gaelic.

Little Christmas is sacred as a celebration of God’s manifestation to us in human form…Jesus. Some say that long ago, before Western Civilization adopted the Gregorian calendar, the Epiphany was the traditional day to celebrate the birth of Christ, and that this is the reason the Irish still call this day Little Christmas.

Isn’t it interesting how many of our traditions today date back to some of these? I did a lot of research on Irish Christmas celebrations but was able to use very little of it in my short novella. Of course, I’m saving it, and maybe one of these days, I’ll write a longer book and have the chance to incorporate more of my research.

Here’s a link if you’d like to buy my book:

If you care to make a comment, your name will be entered in a drawing to receive a free copy of A Bride by Christmas.

Vickie McDonough

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35 thoughts on “Vickie McDonough says, “Nollaig Shona Duit!””

  1. What wonderful information on Christmas traditions. Your story sounds great, can’t wait to read it. Isn’t Christmas great, if only all will remember the true meaning.

  2. What a great post. I really love Christmas because it celebrates , The birth of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ

  3. Vickie, welcome back to Wildflower Junction. It’s always nice to have you!

    Really enjoyed hearing how the anthology got started. I didn’t realize it was as author-driven as you described, and how nice that an unpublished writer could be included.

    Fascinating info on the Irish traditions. Rather similar to ours, eh?

  4. Hi Vicki,

    I learned a lot from your post today. Our family is Greek and we have a few Christian traditions (St. Nicholas is a big feast day in the Orthodox Church on December 6 and most families have a Nicholas in them so it’s a big celebration, even before Christmas). I really enjoy learning about other cultures since my family were immigrants and passed through Ellis Island with so many others coming from Europe in the 1930s and 40s.

    Your anthology sounds wonderful. Christmas love stories are so much fun.

    Have a great weekend.

  5. I really enjoy reading novellas and one about Christmas is even better. Christmas is a favorite time for my family and I love reading about the traditions of other cultures. As our family has grown due to marriages it is fun to add a little of their family tradidtions.

    I will be looking forward to reading your books.

  6. I always wondered how an anthology was started.

    I agree with Pam. I really like the idea of it being author-driven. I think it’s great that an unpubbed writer can be part of the project, too.

    Your ‘wren boy’ procession brought up a memory. When hubby and I were in the CAF, one of our postings was in Northern Alberta. It was the only base we lived at where a similar event would happen. I can’t remember what we called it, but we were never visited so didn’t go out on Christmas Eve. It was a nice evening with our pre-schooler.

    But one year, my parents were visiting. Mom was a Christian and although she knew I was a back-slider at the time, didn’t know what to expect. It was her first visit to a military base, too. We put my parents in our bedroom and we slept on the sofabed in the livingroom. Thank goodness, because a few hrs after my parents arrival, hubby’s crew decided to ‘visit us’. About a dozen of them outside raised up a hullabaloo. We tried to ignore them but finally decided the only way to shut them us was to join them. So off we went at 11 pm on Christmas Eve, waking up 3 more families. Everyone was eager and receptive and around 2 am , we went back home and slunk into bed. And I never heard the end of it for year’s to come!

  7. Christmas is my favorite holiday. I love learning about old traditions and starting new ones within my own family. One tradition that I have started for myself is reading several Christmas books before the holiday. Christmas stories are so heartwarming, and they really help to get me in the Christmas spirit. Your book sounds like a wonderful book for me to add to this year’s pile!

  8. Very cool, Vickie! Thanks for sharing the information about Irish traditions! I love anthologies, and Christmas ones really put me in the mood for the season! Definitely looking forward to reading this one!

  9. First let me say I love to read Christmas stories, for one thing it is my favorite holiday. I really enjoy your post about the old traditions and yes we still follow a lot of those traditions today. Your book sounds great and I would love to read it.

  10. An Irish Bride for Christmas sounds like a wonderful read! 😀 Thanks for the very informative post on traditions… Happy Holidays and Nollaig Shona Duit! 😀

  11. Vickie. . . Great blog. I love to hear about traditions and will have to buy the book. I paricularly like the idea behind the Laden Table.

    And a huge welcome back.

  12. HI VICKIE!!!!!!!

    I love hearing the roots of the traditions.

    I always know they’ve evolved from something weird.

    Killing a wren makes NO SENSE. Especially if the wren saved the day. Why kill it? Bizaar. Bizarre. how do you spell bizar???

    Also weird.

    the book sound great. I love a Christmas story.

  13. Hi Vickie,

    Welcome back to P&P! We love having you. You always have an interesting blog. I enjoyed learning about the different Irish Christmas traditions. Some passed down to us as the immigrants came West. I like to see how traditions evolved.

    Wonderful blog!

  14. Oh Vickie, what a great post and lovely-sounding book. I’m off to order it. I love Christmas stories!!

    The info here is very interesting. We just went to Solvang, a little Danish town on the California central coast which features tons of Scandinavian traditions. I love learning about new cultures and traditions.

  15. I too found all the traditions fascinating – except the pig’s head, could do without that one lol. But the potato and onion stuffing sounds interesting! My relatives are all from Sicily and they tell of the old lady from the hills who comes down and puts treats in the children’s shoes (which are left outside the door). Receiving some oranges and nuts were big treats for them.

  16. Hi Vickie! Wonderful post! Interesting information on Christmas traditions. I love Christmas anthologies! Your book sounds great! Thanks for blogging here today!

  17. Hi Vickie. Your novella sounds great. It is interesting how some of our traditions get their origins from other countries.

  18. Hi Vickie! Great blog! I enjoyed learning about many of the Irish Christmas traditions. I’ll be sure to look for A Bride by Christmas. Love Christmas stories!

  19. Hi Vickie,
    It’s nice to have you blog at Petticoats today!
    You anthology sounds marvelous and the cover is very appealing with the bride and poinsettias! Thanks for sharing Christmas traditions with us, many of which I didn’t know. You sorta lost me with the pig’s head garlanded with curly cabbage though! 🙂 I like learning about how traditions got started! Happy Thanksgiving too!

  20. Thanks, everybody, for your nice welcome back! I always enjoy being here. Y’all are always so encouraging and make such interesting comments. I’m glad you found the blog interesting, and I apologize for not responding sooner to your comments, but I’ve been in OK City for a book signing.

    I agree with you about the pig’s head. I lived in Israel for a year and worked at a guest house on a kibbutz for a short time. One of the delicacies there was fish heads. That’s it–just the head, and people ate every bit of it. Bleck! That’s really gross to a landlubber who doesn’t eat fish.

  21. Hi Vickie! I enjoyed reading your blog. I always like to hear about Christmas traditions. Thanks for sharing!

  22. I enjoyed reading this blog post. Very interesting. I’d love to be included in the drawing. I love Christmas stories.

    ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

  23. Your novella sounds wonderful! Christmas is my favorite time of year, and I loved reading about all the traditions.

  24. As time and people pass through our lives so quickly…traditions are a great way to pay tribute to our earlier ancestors. Over the last few years we’ve attempted to write down and video tape our grandparents( and other relatives )and their memories.
    Loved learning about the origins of various things we take for granted over the holidays!

  25. Hi Vickie!
    Yeah! Another Christmas story to read! The story line sounds great for the book. And being Irish myself, I always enjoy learning more about customs, etc.

  26. It is so nice to hear about other traditions it was all very interesting, I learned a lot from reading this. Your book sounds very good can’t wait to read it.
    Have great weekend and a wonderful Thanksgiving!!!

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