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Living in Ireland: Festival of Trees

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

Before we say goodbye to 2017, I thought I’d share one last holiday-themed post.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed or found the most interesting about living in Ireland is seeing how the locals celebrate the various holidays.

Ireland doesn’t have the Christmas markets that other European countries are famous for, but it does have plenty of other events for locals (and visitors!) to enjoy.

This year a friend invited us to see the Festival of Trees at Christ Church in Bray.

Bray is a cute seaside town south of Dublin. It’s one of the farthest points south that you can live from Dublin and still commute 45 minutes by train into the city center for work.

Christ Church is a protestant church dating back to 1863. The church spire (below) is 175-feet tall and was completed in 1870. Eight bells hang in the spire and are still rung at midnight every New Year’s Eve to welcome the New Year.

For this festival, Christ Church set up approximately 40 trees, each decorated by a community group, inside its sanctuary. A Bible verse or hymn corresponded with each tree.

This is what you saw from the back of the sanctuary. It’s a gorgeous building.

I took a few photos to give you an idea of what it was like to be there. I wish you could have smelled the glorious scent of all of those tree! Oh, and please excuse the dim lighting conditions.

Here’s a tree decorated with items pulled out of the recycling bin.

I believe this group was advocating for people do all they can to stop or reverse the effects of climate change.

Here’s a tree made of field hockey sticks, which I thought was clever.

My kids play field hockey on Mondays as part of their school day.

I believe this was a remembrance tree.

There are names of loved ones written on each dove.

This Donald Trump tree was one of the last trees on the tour. It’s labeled the “Golden Fleece Tree” and was decorated by a hair salon.

Donald Trump masks were sold as Halloween costumes at the euro store (like a dollar store) this year. Most people here are either appalled at his rhetoric and/or think he’s a joke.

It was my impression that the tree was not intended to be a compliment.

This is just another reminder to me that our world is much more connected than folks might realize.

The ballerina tree was very pretty.

It looks like Bible verses are written on the tree’s ornaments.

They also had a wishing tree where the kids could write down a wish. My son wished for snow and he did get to see about 5 minutes of snow this year!

There was also a wood cross where people could write prayer requests down on Post-It notes and add them to the “tree.” The notes were over-flowing onto the ground. It was touching to observe.

I’m in awe every time I step foot into a historic church.

Especially from an artistic and architectural standpoint, you can tell these are special places.

It was also neat to see a church opening their doors to the community in this way.

While we enjoy attending the big, spectacular holiday events in Ireland, it’s the smaller community events that have helped me appreciate and understand my neighbors a little better.

By far, the best part about living in Ireland are the Irish people. Their graciousness and ability to see me as an individual and not as a representative of the political or Hollywood version of U.S. values has been humbling and so appreciated.

Happy Travels!


If you are new to Dublin or visiting Dublin, here are some helpful websites to check to see what’s happening in and around the city.

Dublin.ie   |     Visit Dublin      |     Dublin Town

If you are in the South Dublin area, these websites are helpful.

Dun Laoghaire – Rathdown County Council     |     Bray, Ireland


If you liked this post, here are more posts about visiting Ireland.

The Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands with Kids

Galway with Kids

Our Favorite Irish Castle Tour with Kids

Belfast with Kids

Dublin: Talking Statues

Kissing the Blarney Stone and Blarney Castle

Here are some posts about our expat experience of living in Ireland.

Living in Ireland: Christmas in Retail 2017

Living in Ireland: Storm Ophelia

Living in Ireland: That Time a Tree Came Down

Living in Ireland: Pediatric Emergency Medicine

Living in Ireland: Back After A Month in the United States

Living in Ireland: As Seen On My Commute

Living in Ireland: A Trip to the Hardware Store

Living in Ireland: Spring Flowers In Our Yard

Living in Ireland: Grocery Shopping

Living in Ireland: What to See my Hot Press?

Living in Ireland: Merry Christmas 2016

Living in Ireland: Christmas in Retail

Living in Ireland: Groceries

Moving to Ireland: Grocery Item Look Alikes

Moving to Ireland: Primary School 101

Moving to Ireland: First Week of School

Moving to Ireland: The Great Purge

Moving to Ireland: Human Kindness is Overflowing 

Moving to Ireland: House Viewing #1

Moving to Ireland:  House Viewing #2

Moving to Ireland: House Viewing #3

Moving to Ireland: Temp House First Floor

Moving to Ireland: Temp House Second Floor

Moving Tips to Keep You Sane

My #1 Moving Tip

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Living in Ireland: Christmas in Retail 2017

We are counting down the days until we celebrate our second Christmas living in Ireland!

Last year I didn’t know what to expect as far as the holidays go and I was pleasantly surprised to see that everyone – including retailers – really get into the Christmas spirit here. This makes sense given the heavy Catholic influence in Ireland.

There is no “buffer holiday” between Halloween and Christmas in Ireland, so the holiday decorations starting going up in early November. As an example of how early festivities start, the tree lighting event in our town was on November 18. Santa arrived on a Harley Davidson (why not?) to turn on the town’s Christmas lights. Then there was a fireworks show, which we watched from the pier along the bay. It was pretty fantastic!

Retailers get in on the action too. They don’t miss an opportunity! Perhaps it is no surprise then that Black Friday IS a thing here. It came to the U.K. and Ireland not too many years ago due, in large part, to the influence of American retailers. It happens on Thanksgiving weekend, just like in the U.S.

Today, as I did last year, I am sharing some pictures of Christmas in Irish retail. Mainly just storefronts because I avoid actually going IN stores for holiday shopping as much as possible.

These pictures were taken on my daily commute around South Dublin. The lighting and conditions are less than ideal. Terribly, really. So, in the spirit of the season, please forgive the quality of the images and ALL the window glare!

Come along on my walk…


Here’s a children’s clothing retailer riffing on the magic of the season.

Right next door is a men’s clothing store giving me ALL THE PANIC.

You’ll see why…

Really, people? Really? That typo made me hightail it out of town the mall!

Kidding, but I did leave town to get pictures of the Blarney Woollen Mills during our visit to Blarney Castle.

This is the largest gift shop in Ireland according to their sign.

If I’m going to be in a store this is the type I’d choose!

The Christmas decorations were among the best I’ve seen this year.

The store had a mixture of high-end clothing and home goods coupled with your traditional souvenir tchotchkes.

Closer to home, here’s the sidewalk outside of a cute flower shop.

I see this every Wednesday when I drop my daughter off for her painting class.

An outdoor retailer opened a new location near us and this is their Christmas display.

It’s been quite cold lately in Dublin, so I’m sure their business is hopping!

I’m pretty sure I shared this one last year, but it’s just such a sweet window.

The animals all move and the kids love it.

This cafe is never open when I walk by early in the morning.

That’s a shame because look at their tree!

You know I’d like to make one!

Handy Husband is a little bah-humbug on the idea. He says things like, “what would we do with it?” And I say, “hang all of our leather flipflop keychains let’s not worry about the details.”

Here’s one of the windows from the bookstore, Eason.

Eason is like the Barnes and Noble of bookstores in the U.K. and Ireland. This is also where you buy things like office and school supplies.

Even thrift stores get in the Christmas spirit. This one is run by St. Vincent de Paul.

There is not one dominant thrift store retailer like Goodwill or Savers in Ireland. Instead, every single charity runs a tiny thrift store. I might have to write more about that at some point.

I also shared this storefront window last year. I just love what this high-end women’s clothing shop does to decorate for Christmas.

You can see a very nice reflection of a church in the window too. These pictures…oh well.

I’m not exactly sure what this place does, but they sure like cold weather creatures.

Not a storefront, but the best use of a trash can I’ve seen in awhile!

Also, they call them bins instead of cans. So, a garbage truck is a bin lorry.

I love the use of greenery on the front of this cafe.

It’s hard to tell in this picture, but they have blankets on each of those barstools so you can wrap up while you drink your latte. I like small touches like that.


As I finished typing this post, I looked up and IT WAS SNOWING! Teeny tiny flakes, but it was snow! That counts. Being right on the Irish Sea with moderate temperatures, it is really hard for it to snow in Dublin.

My kids are at school and I just hope they got to see it. It lasted maybe 10 minutes and, of course, did not stick. My son put a wish for snow on the wishing tree at a local church last week and he would be so happy to see his wish come true.

P.S. If you want to see last year’s Living in Ireland: Christmas in Retail post, click here.

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Living in Ireland: Merry Christmas 2016

Here we are.

The eve of Christmas Eve. My kids are busting with excitement!

Today, instead of my usual happy list, I thought I’d show you some of my recent Instagram snaps of Christmas lights around Dublin.

Plus, a few more random gems for good measure.

Seeing Christmas lights makes me so happy. I love how this building in Dublin’s City Centre is lit up in red and green.


In the distance in the below picture is the Ha’penny Bridge  – a famous pedestrian bridge that crosses over the River Liffey in Dublin.


Here’s my girl at the ice skating rink that was set-up near us just for the holidays. She loves to skate – just like her dad.

And that hair…my goodness.


We took the kids to Grafton Street in Dublin to see how the city was lit up for the holidays. Despite being there with thousands of other people, which is normally my worst nightmare, it was a magical night.


Along our walk through the city we saw a special video snow globe. If you stood in the exact right spot in the street, it would look like you were standing in the middle of a snow globe.

Then your mom would lean over at a really weird angle to try and snap a picture of you without actually ending up in the picture herself. That worked marvelously, but the random stranger in the background didn’t get the message. Oh, well.


Below is the famous Temple Bar Pub. We didn’t take the kids in, although that is perfectly legal in Dublin until a certain time at night.


In case you are wondering what kind of delicacies you can buy at Christmas time, well, feast your eyes on this.


No, I did not buy the chicken liver parfait. You’re a little disappointed, aren’t you?

Moving on. I am thankful the days are now getting longer because the below shot of city hall in the town of Dun Laoghaire was taken at 4 p.m. That’s too early for the sun to go down, my friends. Way too early.


This last one is the perfect juxtaposition of old and new in South Dublin.

On the left is St. Michael’s Church. On the right are a couple of shopping centers. On the very bottom of the photo you can see some double-decker buses. Straight ahead about 4 blocks this road dead-ends into the Irish Sea – you can just make it out in the distance.

I wish you all a very happy Christmas. Thank you so much for sharing this little spot of the Internet with me. I’ll be taking some time off from writing until the second week in January to soak up as much family time as I can get while the kids are on a school break!

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