Christmas Traditions in Bradford County …or Ireland

My mother, Towanda born and bred, was happy if she got an orange for Christmas. A rare treat, it was. And she told me about a very fine pen she got one Christmas when she was older. She lost her mother when she was eight, so I think that colored her Christmases.

Beyond the gifts under the tree, we got stuffed Christmas stockings. My stocking, my knee sock, and I cannot tell you how happy I was when they became popular, held all sorts of treats. A tangerine, walnuts, hard Christmas candies, popcorn balls and little treasures, age appropriate of course. I do remember things like toy watches and jacks, and somehow I think there were new toothbrushes. At least I hope so.

Because they showed up in the stockings my children put out Christmas eve. Of course my kids’ stockings held oranges, nuts, and chocolate too because Hershey’s Kisses wrapped in red and green foil had become part of Christmas. And the assorted age appropriate gifts. Besides the stack of gifts under the tree.  PS, we never said those gifts came from Santa.

Here’s a free story: one Christmas eve my husband and I were stretched out on the living room floor trying to put together the dollhouse we got for our eldest. We waited till 9pm to make sure they were all asleep before we started the project. Just then our Beth came out of her room to go to the bathroom. Ever the kind child, she said, “I don’t mind if you play with my dollhouse,” and walked right on by us and back by us without another word. Honestly, I don’t know how she did that.

Anyway, since I have been doing so much research into the lives of my great-great-grandparents in Ireland just before they came to Bradford County in the late 1840’s, I thought I ought to look at Christmas traditions they might have celebrated. Now there’s a wake up call!

Like us, like me anyway, one of the things we do before the Christmas company comes is clean the house. It appears the Irish , back in the day before the average citizen had an indoor toilet, cleaned the outdoor one for Christmas. It fell to the men to whitewash the outhouse while the women scrubbed the inside. I think the men got the better part of that deal.

Another common tradition has persevered to the present, at least in my house. It called for just one candle to be placed in the window as a sign of welcome for Mary and Joseph. Well, I am not sure my candle is for Mary and Joseph, but it is there to signify welcome.

They also practiced another tradition that I move we should bring back. On the January 6, they commemorated the arrival of the Magi by taking all Christmas decorations down. They believed that it was bad luck to leave them up past the sixth unless you leave them up year-round.

But the best part is yet to come. This special day, January 6, was also called Women’s Day. Women were expected to do all the cooking and cleaning and hosting for the entire holiday period. However, on Women’s Day, the women were off-duty and free to spend the day with their women friends doing whatever they wanted to do. Not a bad idea. eh?

What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions?

Only four more weeks now!

Carol's pic



Carol Brennan King



Socks just like mine from

dollhouse from

outhouse image from


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