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Expat Life

New Years Eve in Ireland

December 30, 2015

After over a decade living in Ireland I have concluded that my least faveorite holiday to celebrate here is NYE.  In my early twenties back home NYE was usually marked by a killer house party often in some rented house at the beach or in the mountains.

OK so I’m at the point of my life where NYE house parties would have to include a noise threshold to not wake the little people…maybe I can’t blame that on Ireland.

But I have to admit, after years of thinking it was overrated it turns out I miss the ‘ball drop’ back home.

I had high expectations for my first NYE in Cork. I found myself in an overcrowded (but favourite) pub ready for a new way to ring in the new year.  Somewhere in the vicinity of midnight free bubbly was passed around and then suddendly Auld Lang Syne was being played by the house band and it was 3 minutes past midnight!  No countdown! No timely toast or kiss, a whole lot of mass texting from everyone and NO BALL.

Fast forward ten years and a few kids later and I like NYE in Cork even less.  If there is little sense of occasion in Cork for adults on NYE there  seems to be far less for kids and families.

The lack of family friendly NYE events is a missed opportunity in my beloved city.

I’m used to day long First Night festivities back home pretty much all of which are geared towards families.  Now it seems if we want any sense of family festival you need to head to Dublin.

So we decided to take matters into our own hands.  Through the help of Pinterest I came across the idea for Countdown Bags  from Amy at The Idea Room…and our NYE tradition was born.

Now the Idea Room activities and craftiness were great but I was working pretty last minute and wanting to create a holiday atmosphere for a toddler.  So we created ‘Countdown Envelopes’ (with no crafting involved) and started at 2:00 so we could still make bed time at 7:00!


It doesn't get LESS craftier than blank envelopes!!

It doesn’t get LESS craftier than blank envelopes!!


The past few years our activities have changed and we have started to introduce times onto the envelopes but the kids love the anticipation of seeing what’s next in each envelope.  As they grow we can add all sorts of fun “Year in Review” & “New Years Resolution” activities.

Our only rule is mandatory participation in all activities for the whole family.   We’ve kept it simple with our activities:

  • Paint our nails
  • Play dress up
    Mandatory participation for the WHOLE family!

    Mandatory participation for the WHOLE family!


  • Dance Party
  • Bake brownies
  • Order take-a-way and go get it!                                                                                                       IMG_0498
  • Indoor picnic
  • Make a gingerbread house

    Know any good roofers?

    Know any good roofers?

  • Play a board game
  • Make a fort
  • Pillow fight
  • Movie Night                                                                                                                           IMG_0501
  • It’s Midnight somewhere!!  (We always end on this one which involves watching NYE celebrations on the news or YouTube, playing Auld Lang Syne and ‘midnight’ kisses before bed).

Our tradition travelled with us last year to the US when we celebrated with the cousins, and this year the kids are pitching in their own thoughts on what activities should be included.

We’ve managed to create a pretty killer family NYE party in our Irish country home!


Living Abroad, Love Ireland, mixed culture family

Making Halloween our Own

October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween from Ireland.  The kids are on midterm break so we have been celebrating all week-long!!

It was about 8 years ago that the King carved his first pumpkin.  I remember explaining in detail that he had to clean out the insides first….around that time I ate my first slice of Halloween brack and he gave me careful instructions to not choke on the ring if I found it.

Ever since then we’ve been trying to combine our two cultures to make traditions of our own family.

His pumpkin carving has gotten significantly better, but I still haven’t bothered to actually make my own brack though.

Pumpkins 2013 by the King


I didn’t realize it until this year, but I guess I try to get the kids costumes back home if possible.  In Ireland Halloween costumes tend to be on the spooky, bloody, evil side.  This year Princess M spotted a puppy costume in Target when we were home last month…the upstate NYer/mother in me couldn’t help but notice there was plenty of room to layer warm clothes underneath…the King noted it was the very opposite of spooky. We bought it.

We decorate, we read Halloween stories and watch spooky(ish) movies all in the lead up to the big day.  And while I still have difficulty finding It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown we manage.

And even though there is sadly no pumpkin patches or corn mazes near by, we find an autumn Halloween party somewhere in the community and pick our stemless pumpkins from the grocery store. And we come home and make chocolate covered apples and toast pumpkin seeds.

Making the chocolate apples

Making the chocolate apples

Tonight the King will light a fire in the fireplace and remind me that the origins of Halloween came from Celtic Ireland.  I will make last-minute adjustments to costumes, get ready for trick-or-treaters and politely remind him that America does Halloween best.  We’ll both laugh and toast our family with a Guinness or even a hot whisky because hot apple cider is hard to find….

How do you make Halloween your own?