Today is 8 December. It’s a holy day of obligation, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and when I was a child it was a day off school. Traditionally, this was the day that the country people went to Dublin to do their Christmas shopping, and known by Dubliners for this reason as Culchie Christmas Shopping Day. We never did this – my dad couldn’t abide the thought of those Dublin jackeens laughing at the culchies up from the country on the 8th. We went the weekend before to see the lights in Henry Street, the women on Moore Street crying ‘Last of the cheeky charlies’, the toys in Hector Grey’s and Roches Stores. And then the walk up and over the Ha’penny Bridge, past College Green to Grafton Street and Switzers where we were able to tell Santy what we wanted and gaze at the Christmas windows in wonder.
In defence of Dublin, the Santa Claus at Switzers was a lot less scary than his alter ego down the country.
Extensive research (a quick look in Google) finds that Culchie Day is no longer such a big event. Online shopping and the American Black Friday sales mean that 8 December is less relevant. But for many people, it is still the day to start Christmas and put up the decorations. And in this pandemic year, when many of us are physically further apart from our families than ever before, it might be even more important to celebrate family and friendship and the anticipation of an upcoming feast. Happy Christmas on Culchie Day!