Halloween to New Year’s Eve: Holidays in Ireland

Picture of Elle Gough

There is no denying that the end of each year brings a myriad of holiday celebrations. From Halloween to New Year's Eve, here is some insight into how you can expect to celebrate the season in Ireland.


Halloween is a classic holiday for people growing up in the United States. If Halloween is one of your must have celebrations each year, do not fear-Halloween is also celebrated in Ireland. Houses are covered in decorations, children wear costumes to school and candy is abundant around both the house and the office. As there is a more prominent emphasis on sustainability in Ireland, it is not uncommon to see alternative desserts for trick-or-treats that limits the amount of plastic packaging. Costumes are also less commercialized and more inventive, using things found around the home to create a custom jelly bean outfit or Harry Potter costume rather than buying from the fast fashion retailers. 

Plastic-free Halloween treats


Turkey lovers, this holiday might be a bit different this year. As Thanksgiving is an American holiday, it is not common for Irish families to celebrate this festive feast. In fact, businesses in Ireland do not close for this holiday. Keep this in mind when you are planning travels during your time abroad in the fall, as schools will operate as usual. 

Despite the fact that there is no national celebration for Thanksgiving, the generosity of the Irish culture continues to make this day spectacular! During Thanksgiving 2019 I was extended a handful of offers for homemade dinner featuring all of the classics-turkey, ham, potatoes and carrots. Our office even went as far as to host a Friendsgiving!  Thus in regards to this American tradition, rather than feeling you’re missing out, FaceTime your family back home, find a way to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and relish in the new traditions you will make with the people you meet on the Emerald Isle. 

Thanksgiving 1


Christmas is a cause for a large celebration in Ireland. With a rich religious history of both Protestants and Catholics in Ireland, Christmas is a commonly celebrated holiday across the country. The best part everyone can enjoy no matter religious preferences: the lights. As the sun begins to set at 4:15pm each night during winter in Ireland, the white lights that hang on the streets, in windows and projected onto homes brings joy to anyone leaving the office after 5pm. 

If you are in Ireland for the Christmas season, you can expect nothing short of a winter wonderland. Hot chocolate with pink and white marshmallows, holiday pantomimes and cozy fireplaces are around every corner. Head to the Dublin Zoo to see lights at night, or find a B&B in the countryside to curl up and read-any activity you choose during this time of year will be delightful. Bonus: there will be less tourists, making for more relaxing journeys and tours of the country. 

Christmas at Kilkenny Castle

St. Stephen's Day

St. Stephen’s Day is the 26th of December. While it is not widely recognized in the United States, it is recognized in Ireland as a public holiday. This is historically a day to commemorate the Christian Saint Stephen. 

Unlike the United States, holidays are taken more seriously in Ireland. That is, holidays are observed and most businesses do indeed close. In fact, it is not uncommon in Ireland for businesses to close from before Christmas till after New Year’s Eve. Relish in this time and relax-everyone deserves some time-off before the New Year. Plan ahead with your travels so that you do not become frustrated to find that businesses and shops may be closed. 

St. Stephens

New Year's Eve

The change from 2019 to 2020 was not just a new year, but a new decade too. That’s quite a celebration. Here in Ireland, they do not have a ball drop like NYC, but as it is, we should be thanking Ireland for this tradition. That is, fun fact: all of the crystal in the NYC ball is Waterford Crystal, which hails from no other than Waterford, Ireland. Spectacular, no?

For the turn of the year and the turn of the decade, the Learn International team was with our George Mason University (GMU) programme on Achill Island. Here, our group saw the last sunset of 2019 at the most western point of Europe. From here, the students rang in the New Year with fireworks and a bagpipe band at one of the local Achill pubs. In traditional Irish fashion, this was followed by a procession down the middle of the road, following the band and greeting other by-standers as we ushered in 2020. Thus if you find yourself in Ireland for the next New Year’s Eve, bring your walking shoes and be prepared to celebrate the New Year in a new fashion!

New Year's

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