Christmas in Ireland: Christmas Eve in Times Past
In past eras the Irish observed December 24 as a fast day, eating no food except a meatless meal in the evening. They spent Christmas Eve at home, telling stories and singing songs. Many believed spirits walked abroad on Christmas Eve and deemed it wiser not to venture outdoors after dark. At about an hour before midnight, church bells all over Ireland began to ring. This tolling, known as the "Devil’s funeral” or the Devil’s knell, announced the death of the Devil, who was believed to expire annually on Christmas Eve with the birth of Jesus Christ. On Christmas morning many people attended a very early church service, known as "First Light” mass.