Nostalgia: Looking back on Cork Christmas traditions

The final countdown to Christmas is well and truly on.
Nostalgia: Looking back on Cork Christmas traditions

Young carol singers outside the Victoria Hotel,1965.

The final countdown to Christmas is well and truly on with Cork traders gearing up for what is typically one of the busiest weekends of the year.

Cork City and Cork County Council have both encouraged the public to support local retailers, hoteliers and restaurants this Christmas who have been repeatedly challenged over the past 20 months.

Delving through the archives to reflect on some Cork Christmas traditions, one article from Christmas week in 1934 particularly captured the sense of anticipation collectively felt by Cork residents just a handful of days before Christmas.

Turkeys on display at the English Market, Grand Parade in December 1964.
Turkeys on display at the English Market, Grand Parade in December 1964.

"Christmas is now only three days distant and the shopping frenzy is at its height.

"All classes of the community are engaged in the hurried business of purchasing presents whilst housewives are busily engaged in laying in the stores of seasonable fare which produce the well known after Christmas feeling of overeating."

Business was reported to be booming with grocery stores, in particular, experiencing a deluge of people through the doors.

"Strangely big must be appetites at this time of year if one is to believe the evidence of crowded grocery stores and vastly pleased shopkeepers who express entire satisfaction at the volume of trade experienced for the past few days."

Visit of Santa to Blarney Street CBS in 1935.
Visit of Santa to Blarney Street CBS in 1935.

As is tradition at Christmas, Cork secondary school students have donned the distinctive yellow jackets and are doing their utmost to raise as much money as possible for SHARE.

Students Harness Aid for the Relief of the Elderly (SHARE) have been taking to the streets of Cork since the early 1970s.

What began as a group of students from Presentation Brothers College has now widened to an extensive list of Cork secondary schools participating in the Christmas appeal.

In December 1974, the street collectors managed to raise £7,011 for Cork's senior citizens and combined with money they had raised before December totalled a staggering £14,000.

SHARE Crib, 1987.
SHARE Crib, 1987.

In a letter to The Echo, Chairman Niall O'Donovan stated:

"One cannot easily experience the standard of sharing which we witnessed last week and remain unaffected by it.

"In fact, the whole response served as a lesson which we will not easily forget.

"It was for us a humbling experience."

As usual this year, students will collect right up until Christmas Eve, raising much-needed funds for a charity that has looked after the elderly in the region for half a century.

Christmas decorations on Grand Parade, 1930. 
Christmas decorations on Grand Parade, 1930. 

Another treasured Cork Christmas tradition is spiced beef - a firm favourite on the festive dinner plates across the county.

As English Market stallholder Tom Durcan of Tom Durcan Meats notes, “spiced beef is a Cork tradition that goes back centuries when the merchant ships would cure the meat for longevity”.

“The curing of beef in salt and spices meant that by keeping the joints in a cool larder room they would be edible for weeks.” 

The spiced method these days is done purely to enhance flavour, but the tradition has not waned in its popularity over the decades.

Tom Durcan Meats is famous on a global scale with orders from abroad piling in every Christmas for his famous spiced beef and other cuts.

Fr Mathew players in the Christmas pantomime 'Robin Hood' at Father Mathew Hall, 1933.
Fr Mathew players in the Christmas pantomime 'Robin Hood' at Father Mathew Hall, 1933.

Other beloved Christmas traditions over the years include a visit to see the crib at the Lough, Glow in Bishop Lucey Park and an outing to the panto - which to the delight of many have returned this Christmas.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Echo 130Echo 130
EL_music

Podcast: 1000 Cork songs 
Singer/songwriter Jimmy Crowley talks to John Dolan

Listen Here

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more