Page 4 of 5
airfare (Orlando to Shannon Airport) starting at $797 (quote via expedia.com)
There's no culture quite so fond of nostalgia and storytelling as the Irish. So if you've got Irish relatives, chances are you've spent many a holiday season regaled with tales of the good (or maybe even bad) old days back home. I've heard enough stories about the fickle Saint Nicholas and unforgettable Christmas puddings and feasts of Epiphany and Boxing Day celebrations that I often dream of traveling to Ireland some Christmas and get a taste of what the real-deal Irish holiday traditions are like firsthand – before they're all wiped out by an increasingly homogenous culture that seems to be creeping up on everything these days. Perhaps one of these days I'll make it, but it certainly won't be this year.
Orlando isn't such a hub for Irish culture as some other cities (Boston, New York), but if you look around a little, you can certainly improvise. Here are a few ways to bring a little bit more green (and white and gold) to this holiday season.
The Irish aren't really known for their culinary prowess, but there's something irresistible about the warm, homey food that populates the menu of any Irish pub worth its Guinness. In addition to the traditional offerings – cottage pies, Irish stews, fish and chips, bangers and mash – both of these local Irish eateries offer menu items that put a twist on the old standards. Bonus: Check the events calendar on Fiddler's Green's website to find out when traditional Irish music will be flowing along with the beer.
Check out a hurling match
The Orlando Gaelic Athletic Association is keeping the ancient Gaelic sport of hurling – something like field hockey – alive in Central Florida. Fall training at Blue Jacket Park in Winter Park just started last month, and it's free to watch. Better yet, you could join. Keep tabs on the league's activities at orlando.florida.gaa.ia.
Take Irish dancing lessons at Hendricks School of Irish Dancing
Turning Point Studio, the Springs Plaza, 145 Wekiva Springs Road, #145, Longwood, 407-620-8249, hendricksschool.com
Do you know how to dance a jig? How about a hornpipe or a ceili? Invest in some lessons from Hendricks, which teaches toddlers through adults, and you'll be ready to show off your moves at an Irish Feis in no time.
Read The Dead by James Joyce
This classic tale by Ireland's most confounding novelist centers on a dinner and dance held by a pair of elderly sisters in Dublin at Christmastime.
Pick up some real tea and sweets at the British Shoppe
809 N. Mills Ave., 407-898-1634, thebritishshoppe.com
Yeah, yeah, we know – it's British, not Irish. But the British Shoppe is a tiny storefront packed tight with all sorts of goodies available in Ireland and the UK. Pick up a box of PG Tips or Barry's teas for a good, strong cup (this is no "dishwater tea," as my Irish mom calls the American stuff), and while you're at it, indulge in some Cadbury Crunchie bars, Frys Turkish Delights and maybe some Jammie Dodgers. Yum. Staying home for the holidays is actually pretty delicious. – Erin Sullivan