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Santa on the Liffey and 1960s Dublin: A look back at Ireland's Christmas past

“Don’t talk about chimneys or reindeer, leave the country or keep up with the trends.”

"Leave the country or keep up with the trends."
Image: IFI Player/Dublin Lights Up for Christmas

IF YOU’RE SICK of Christmas and ploughing through crowds of people just to get someone a jumper you don’t think they’ll ever wear, here’s a quick release.

The IFI Player, an archive for Irish footage collected from a variety of sources, has uploaded some Christmas-themed videos to seen how it was done in days gone by – giving us a blast of nostalgia of the Christian tradition in Ireland.

Here’s the IFI’s recommendations of what to watch first:

1. Dublin Shops Highlight Christmas

santa dublin Source: IFI Player/Dublin Shops Highlight Christmas

It’s December 1959 and Christmas is coming.

The streets of Dublin glistened with the joy of the festive season and everything you could wish for could be found here – in what the voiceover calls ‘Tír na nÓg’.

In every shop window there was something to delight and entice, from the latest fashion trends to novelty Christmas candles. The perfect end to a day in Dublin city centre was to pop into Pim Brothers & Co Department Store on South Great George’s Street “sailing on the magic gondola” to visit Santa in his magical Grotto.

2. Dublin lights up

Santa skiing Source: IFI Player/Dublin lights up for Christmas

Santa here delivering presents by water ski on the Liffey.

While he glides across the screen, the reporter says “Don’t talk about chimneys or reindeer, leave the country or keep up with the trends.” Well there you have it.

December 1961 and Dublin was teeming with colourful lights from O’Connell to Grafton Street and the city was electrified with festive cheer.

This city centre was “packed like never before”. People descended on the brightly lit shops to buy perfect gifts for loved ones and to enjoy the very special atmosphere that’s fills the streets of Dublin at Christmastime.

3. The moving crib

Screenshot 2016-12-19 at 10.55.30 Source: IFI Player/Moving Crib

A popular Dublin tradition, a Christmas time visit to the Moving Crib in Parnell Square was sure to delight young and old. A nativity scene was created using over 100 mechanical handcrafted figures set against a delicately hand-painted back-drop.

Based in 30 Parnell Square at St Martin Apostolate, the Moving Crib, which opened in 1956, displays some of the better-known Bible scenes: from Adam and Eve, to Noah’s Ark, to the Christmas nativity scene.

4. Christmas in Howth

Screenshot 2016-12-19 at 11.01.51 Source: IFI Player/Wet Christmas in Howth

With Howth Martello Tower just visible in the distance, Mr and Mrs Carr brave the cold waters at Balscadden Bay as onlookers, in awe of this chilly Christmas tradition, cheer them on.

The traditional Christmas swim continues still in Ireland today with dippers braving the chilly waters, often for charitable purposes, from one end of the country to the other.

5. Christmas morning

Christmas Morning (1) Source: IFI Player/Christmas Morning

If you enjoyed these snippets of film, then you might be in the mood for something slightly longer – also uploaded to the IFI player is the Palme d’Or nominated short film “Christmas Morning”. Directed by Tiernan Mac Bride, this six-minute film is a visual representation of the classic Irish Folk song ‘Arthur McBride and The Sergent’ played and sung by acclaimed Irish singer Paul Brady.

Read: ‘Stop daydreaming’: Public service films and bizarre ads from the Ireland of decades past

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