The story of Christmas around the world > 7

The lighting of candles
has a deep religious meaning in Ireland and is heightened during Christmas, when it symbolizes hospitality for the Holy Family. To light a candle (or even holiday lights) is to say that there is room for Mary and Joseph in one’s home, even though there was none in Bethlehem. The hospitality is extended to others at dinnertime, when extra plates are set on the table for unexpected visitors.

Many decorate their doors with holly for the holidays and may not realize that this custom originated in Ireland.

Christmas begins on December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, and lasts until January 6, the feast of the Epiphany. Familiar Christmas carols are still sung on the streets of some cities, by choirs big and small; street musicians play timeless Christmas classics on flutes, violins, harps and guitars.