A Northern Irish Christmas
For many of our Northern Irish diaspora, this may be the first trip back to NI in a long time. Covid-19 significantly disrupted last year’s Christmas plans. For those returning to NI, there is much to be merry and bright about: reuniting with family and friends, visiting old haunts, and enjoying the delights of the festive season.
But Covid hasn’t gone away. Not everyone will be able to get back to Northern Ireland for the holidays. Being away from home can be tough, most especially at Christmas time.
This year, we look back at past Christmases to bring a sense of nostalgia while finding new ways to connect with loved ones at home.
There are Christmas markets in every city in the world but there’s none quite as special as the Belfast Continental market. There’s so much magic in wandering around the wooden huts, adorned in fairy lights and mistletoe, and marvelling at the delicious Italian sweets, colourful pashminas, and irresistible Spanish churros on offer.
The smell of mulled wine wafting through the air as you wait in line for a helping of Dutch pancakes. Fond seasonal memories were made at the continental market – from riding the carousel as children and tasting a crocodile burger for the first time, to ending the night in the German beer hall with a ‘few.’
Nothing rouses the Christmas spirit more than the annual light switch at Belfast City Hall. We’ve had some big names turning on the lights here in Belfast: former U.S. president Bill Clinton in 1995, S-Club 7 singer Rachel Stevens in 2005 and PJ Masks in 2019.
The Christmas light switch on may be cancelled for another year, but Belfast is still a-glow. This year light projections, music, dance, and window animation will bring sparkle to Christmas shoppers and late-night revellers.
Victoria Square will have its usual spectacular array of Christmas magic throughout the complex: dozens of intricately decorated Christmas trees, swathes of lights, complete with tinsel tunnel and electric forest provide ample photo opportunities.
Our diaspora are scattered all over the globe where Christmases look very different. Our U.S. diaspora have already tucked into their turkey dinner over Thanksgiving. Our diaspora in Hong Kong are enjoying the sparkling skyline at Winter Fest while those of you in Australia plan your Christmas day BBQ on the beach.
No matter where in the world you are, you can still bring a touch of Northern Ireland to the festive season. You can find lots of local produce online or you could ask family members to send you a care package full of your favourite Northern Irish treats.
And thanks to the wonders of technology, we can still be close. From video-calling loved ones, virtually eating your turkey dinner together (time-zone permitting,) organising Zoom quizzes or having a ‘Teleparty’- there are more ways than ever to feel like you’re right at home.
We look forward to welcoming our diaspora home for Christmas. And if you can’t get back to NI this year, we’re confident we’ll meet again soon. We want to thank you for your invaluable role in helping strengthen Northern Ireland’s international reputation this past year.
From all of us here at NI Connections – we wish you a very Merry Christmas!