Christmas Day is almost here but I feel like all anyone is thinking about is whether their online deliveries will arrive on time or what time Penneys closes at on Christmas Eve.
As a child, my fondest Christmas memories are of my parents and their friends singing along to Slade in the kitchen, decorating the tree with my little sisters and bickering over who will put the star on top, visiting my Nanny’s house and revelling in the fact that we could eat chocolate before dinner.
The last thing I think of are the gifts. Don’t get me wrong, I nearly keeled over with joy when a Sylvanian Families Brick Oven Bakery was under the tree one Christmas, but nowadays the most wonderful time of the year is all about shopping.
Christmas is starting to revolve around Amazon deliveries, late night shopping and taking the perfect photo of the tree for Instagram.
We’ve forgotten the fact that spending hundreds on gifts isn’t the true meaning of Christmas.
We have been conditioned to think this way so let me remind you of the things that truly matter at Christmas time.
Waking up on Christmas morning and hugging your Mam.
Singing along to Wham as you drive home with your Dad.
Swooning over Jude Law in The Holiday with your sisters.
That first sip of Butler’s Hot Chocolate on a cold December evening.
Catching the Father Ted Christmas special and quoting the entire thing.
Rockin’ around the Christmas tree, literally.
Helping the men of the family wrap their presents on the sly.
Stopping to listen to carol singers on Grafton Street.
The smell that hits you as you open the first tin of Roses.
Dancing around the kitchen to Mariah Carey with your best friends.
Pints in your local pub on Christmas Eve.
Fluffy roast potatoes that make you drool.
Laughing as you struggle to fit the turkey in the oven: “It didn’t look that big in the butchers.”
Receiving Christmas cards from family who won’t make it home for Christmas
Seeing the baffled look on your cat/dog’s face when they see the tree for the first time
Saying ‘Merry Christmas’ to the bus driver
Your Nanny’s red cheeks after one too many glasses of mulled wine.
Sharing stories about the loved ones who are no longer around for Christmas.
Pretending your Grandad didn’t fall asleep after dinner: “I was just resting my eyes.”
Watching Santa leave the North Pole on the news, no matter what age you are.
Driving around and looking at all the Christmas lights in your hometown.
Trying to find out which one of your cousins keeps putting empty wrappers in the tin of Celebrations.
The most wonderful time of the year is here and there’s no place we’d rather celebrate than home. There’s something so special about Ireland at Christmas time and Deliveroo has reminded us of that.
They gathered up a list of the country’s top Christmas traditions and all our favourites made the list, including the Late Late Toy Show.
Deliveroo’s survey highlights that six of Ireland’s fifteen most popular festive traditions that inspire the most Christmas spirit revolve around food and drink.
Top 15 Traditions that inspire the most Christmas Spirit:
The Late Late Toy Show
Receiving the first Christmas card
Christmas markets (at home and abroad)
Glass of Bailey’s
Opening the first window of an Advent Calendar
Festive crisps and dips
Christmas filters on Snapchat and Instagram
Food will be as important as ever this year, as the average Irish person will consume 6 slices of smoked salmon, 2 glasses of Bailey’s, 4 Christmas sandwiches, 6.5 mince pies, 2.5 glasses of mulled wine, 2 Christmas dinners, 11 Brussel Sprouts and 1 potato croquette.
When do we start to get those Festive Feels? The research reveals that almost one in three (32%) start to feel festive at their first Christmas party. While 27 percent say that the turning of the calendar to December 1st prompts their feelings of festivity. Almost one in five Irish adults (19%) say that the Late Late Show kicks off the festivities, followed by receiving the first Christmas card (12%) and seeing the Christmas lights being turned on (8%).
Based on our favourite parts of Christmas, Ireland is a traditional bunch. Food and drink were voted as the favourite parts of Christmas, time off work follows. Perhaps surprisingly, people held more favour with attending Christmas Mass and services than receiving Christmas gifts.
We think it is one of the best! The magnificently restored Georgian estate in County Meath, is also celebrating 10 years of delivering truly unique, exclusive weddings and events to guests from Ireland and overseas. To mark the occasion, Clonabreany House has launched its ‘A Passion for Provenance’ menu celebrating the very best of seasonal, Irish produce and its continued commitment to local suppliers. The stunning setting of Clonabreany House, which led to it being chosen as the location for The Great Irish Bake Off in 2013, is complimented by the highest quality, bespoke service ensuring that this beautiful venue is constantly in high demand. The quality of the food at Clonabreany House and the team’s commitment to local suppliers, is undoubtedly one of its key differentiating factors.
The 'A Passion for Provenance' menu celebrates Clonabreany's commitment to Irish produce and the valuable relationships that the team has developed with local suppliers which includes sourcing fresh fruit and vegetables from Grange Farm in Trim, breakfast products from Doherty Craft Butchers in Kells and the highest quality beef from CR Tormey's farm in Kilbeggan.
Executive chef Simon Mooney’s menu also celebrates award-winning produce from all over Ireland, such as Goatsbridge trout, Velvet Cloud cheese and yoghurt, Wild Irish Foragers preserves and syrups, and Highbank Orchards apple cider, balsamic vinegar and pink apple juice, to name just a few.
Simon commented: “At Clonabreany House we utilise the finest, seasonal ingredients to ensure that every guest has a wonderfully memorable dining experience. We take particular pride in meeting guest’s individual dietary requirements, whether that’s vegan, vegetarian or a preference for plant-based, we strive to deliver a top-level restaurant experience for every guest.”
Mary O’Neill, General Manager, Clonabreany House commented: “Our food offering has always been an integral part of the unique Clonabreany House experience. We’re delighted to mark our 10th birthday with the launch of this new menu. We look forward to welcoming and celebrating with many more happy guests in the future.”
The opening of Clonabreany House in 2009 marked the unveiling of a 10-year restoration project of the 18th century land master house and adjoining courtyard, which received an Ellison Award from An Taisce for excellence in conservation. Guests celebrating at Clonabreany House have exclusive use of the beautiful buildings, which can cater for groups of 220 and accommodation for 90 guests, with further accommodation options available in the local area and neighbouring towns.
The hugely successful private wedding and event venue is a key employer in the area, and generates significant business for other suppliers in the wider area such as florists, photographers, musicians etc. on an ongoing basis.
Research from the Higher Education Authority (HEA) has presented results on the graduates who are most likely to find a job after college.
Naturally, we were curious and had to check out the scores. Unsurprisingly, creative work seems fairly sparse *sighs*.
As it turns out, teachers are the most likely to find a job after they graduate, with over 93 percent of recent education grads finding employment within nine months of finishing their course.
The HEA's research found that graduates in areas such as health and welfare (87 percent), ICT (82 percent) and engineering (82 percent) had especially high employment outcomes.
Nearly 80 percent of third-level students secured work within nine months of graduating, which is good news.
The HEA found that students who studied subjects like philosophy and literature were the LEAST likely to be employed…sorry to all those deep thinkers and bookworms out there.
Anyone who completed their arts and humanities studies were actually among the highest percentages who embarked on further study, at 24 percent.
The study involved 29,000 participants who graduated back in 2017, and found that teaching grads are one of the best paid. Their starting salaries mostly came in at €30-€35,000.
The average salary of full-time graduates in employment was €33,574. The HEA's Valerie Harvey said that those who complete further study are the most employable.
She commented on the research, saying that; "The overwhelming majority of all graduates are working and as you move through the levels of educational attainment higher numbers are in employment."
She continued, "So we found that 75 percent of honours degree, 86 percent of post-graduate taught and 91 percent of postgraduate research graduates are in employment."
78 percent of those participants surveyed are working or due to begin a job, and 14 percent of those surveyed are in training or further education.
A further five percent are searching for work, and the remainder are in "further activities", like travelling the world or saving the turtles. Apparently, 90 percent of those who graduate find a job in Ireland. That one surprised us, alright.
The sunny weather has finally made an appearance and we can’t help but daydream about summer adventures. Spending the summer in New York sounds perfect, but unfortunately, our bank accounts are stopping that dream from coming true.
Luckily, there are plenty of places to visit around the Emerald Isle that are perfect if you’re in need of some time away from reality.
There's one place you must visit this summer and it’s the charming town of Clonakilty, Co.Cork. The West Cork town is one of the nicest parts of the county with the stunning Inchydoney Beach, snug pubs, plenty of dinky cafes and dozens of historical sites including Michael Collins House.
Once you arrive in the colourful and vibrant town you’ll never want to leave. The locals and their cheery disposition will make you feel like you’ve lived there your entire life.
There are plenty of hidden gems in Clonakilty that will make your trip all the more memorable.
1: Cafe On The Lane
This quirky spot is hidden down Spillers Lane, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the main streets. The cafe is covered in bunting and fairy lights, with fresh flowers donning every table. The main seating area is full of mismatched, vintage furniture that adds to the character of the place. Treat yourself to a croissant or a brownie and a cup of coffee and listen to Elvis play on the cafe's record player.
2: Cycle around Clon
Clonakilty is the first rural community to offer a bike rental scheme. There’s no better way to see the glorious town than cycling around Clonakilty, especially when the sun is shining. The Clonakilty Bike Scheme even shares advice on how to cycle safely on West Cork roads. Cycle out to Long Strand, which is only 20 minutes away from the town. Take in the breathtaking scenes and breathe in that fresh sea air.
3: Pints in Scannells
This gastropub is the heart of the town, known as the small pub with the big garden, you just have to visit Scannells for a quick pint and a bite to eat. You’ll struggle to leave the pub with the infectious atmosphere and assortment of live music, from jazz to trad, Scannells has something for everyone.
4: A bookworm’s paradise
The Children’s Project charity shop may just look like every other charity shop, but once you go upstairs you’ll be greeted by mountains and mountains of books. The second floor of the shop is a bookworm's idea of heaven. They have shelves full of best-sellers, horror tales, young adult novels, well-loved classics, popular chick-lit books more. You’ll go in for a quick browse and end up leaving the shop hours later with bags full of books.
Clonakilty is the perfect place to visit if you need to escape to the country, especially when the sun is shining!
Coca-Cola hosted their inaugural Melodic Wood area at All Together Now festival in Waterford, purely to create an atmospheric chill-out zone.
The area centred solely around sustainability and was an immersive experience thanks to the electronic music supplied by rising Irish music duo; Prizm.
Those at the festival who were drinking cans were encouraged to bring them along to be pressed into leaves for the installation, with Coca-Cola commissioning native trees in Waterford alongside Native Woodland Trust.
Coca-Cola has donated €10,300 towards the commissioning of 412 native trees to be planted in Waterford, following the success of the Melodic Wood area and it's hypnotic lights show.
The Native Woodland Trust are Ireland’s only organisation with a sole focus on preserving our ancient woodlands, and it's hard to believe that they're the only ones.
We chatted to Prizm as well as the Native Woodland trust about their time in the Melodic Wood, and the importance of Ireland's forests at this critical time in the planet's environmental history.
Prizm are an up and coming electronic duo comprised of Ivan Nicholas and producer Aidan Bond, alumni of the Sound Training College in Temple Bar.
Their intricate knowledge of sound, coupled with their varied instrumental experience leads to standout performances. Their first headline show is set for later this year, and they're scheduled to play a string of festival performances and gigs this year.
We were dying to ask them about their Melodic Wood gig, which acted as a useful yet artistic recycling hub for festival goers.
The Wood's eight trees were all created from recycled materials, with the area forming part of the Native Woodland Trust's wider World Without Waste initiative. World Without Waste commits to collect and recycle the equivalent of every can or bottle that they sell by 2030.
We quizzed them on everything from their first meeting to their involvement in the environmental project;
How do you think your music fuses with nature?
For the song we wrote for Coca-Cola’s Melodic Wood at All Together Now 2019, part of the request was to incorporate nature sounds, we used wind and rustling trees in the intro of the track, and it worked really nicely.
How did you both meet, and when did you decide to become a duo?
We were working in the same place and got talking about music and quickly realized we both wrote and produced music. We strangely had the same vision for a project, so it kicked off from there.
What are your thoughts on Ireland’s attitude to sustainability?
It’s going in the right direction, small things like cardboard straws are a good start but it’s obviously a global problem, you have to start somewhere at the same time.
Why are you named ‘Prizm’?”
In optics, a prism is a transparent optical element with flat, polished surfaces that refract light. At least two of the flat surfaces must have an angle between them. “ We are part of the two… it made sense for us musically and we just both totally agreed on the name.
How did you become involved with the Melodic Wood and All Together Now?
We put our song forward and Coca-Cola loved it.
How do you think Ireland’s music scene can become more eco-friendly and sustainable?
Taking home your tents and cleaning up after yourself is simple and makes a huge difference.
Do you think music has the power to encourage people to focus on climate breakdown and the environment?
No, people have the power.
What are your hopes for the future of your music?
We want to release our debut song and work towards an album. Our live show is very important to us, we want to be a touring band.
What would be your dream gig to play?
Closing out a big festival. Our shows will have all the right ingredients to bring you back to life.
Prizm seem like the ideal artists to have played the Melodic Wood, as All Together Now have been an eco-focused festival from the beginning.
The band too share an interest in reducing their carbon footprint, and we were intrigued to hear what the Native Woodland Trust had to say about the installation.
The Native Woodland Trust is the only environmental organisation in Ireland with a focus on saving the last of Ireland's Ancient Woodlands, now down to as little as 0.1 percent of what originally existed.
The Trust is also the only Irish environmental organisation which has raised the funding to acquire and save some of these woodlands while also planting thousands of trees every year. The Trust now manages 11 woodlands and nature reserves across Ireland, from Donegal to Waterford.
We were delighted to be contacted by Coca-Cola to provide new trees to complement their recycling concept. The Native Woodland Trust is the only non-profit in Ireland with a network of nature reserves where we plant new woodlands, so we were able to commit to planting new trees for Coca-Cola as part of the Melodic Wood initiative which comes under their World Without Waste global strategy.
Can you tell us a bit about Ireland’s Ancient Woods?
Ireland’s Ancient Woodlands are those that have been in continuous existence since at least 1650 – this means that they predate most imports of trees and are directly descended from the primeval forests that once covered almost all of Ireland. They are the most biodiverse habitats we have and are often home to rare and unusual species.
What do you think Ireland’s woodland will look like in 30 years?
A few things will change – but gradually. We will continue to lose our old and ancient woodlands – they are not all protected and the protection is poorly policed. We will also lose some more species – some perhaps due to climate change – and gain some too – especially insects and birds. But our Ash trees, which is one of the most common trees in the country and famously used to make hurleys, will become as rare as Elm trees are today.
What would happen if Ireland lost its woodland and nature reserves?
We would lose a huge part of our cultural and environmental heritage. Trees and woods were a significant part of Gaelic culture – with even our native Ogham alphabet having its letters twinned with the different trees of the forest. We would also lose our connection to the original primeval forests of Ireland – which once were thronged with bears and wolves and were the source of many myths and legends. And of course, we would lose biodiversity in a very significant way.
What worries you the most about climate breakdown?
On a small island like Ireland, many species will not have the ability to simply move north – so we may lose some species. Higher temperatures and changing weather patterns may also add stress to various habitats, like woodlands and make them more prone to damage and disease. Climate change may very well alter the composition of our woodlands and change the face of our countryside.
How sustainable do you think Ireland’s festivals are?
They’re clearly improving hugely and its clearly part of the ethos of just about every festival now. Most festivals also now invite environmental groups to have a stand or kiosk, which is a great way to get our messages across to people and to allow them to actually engage with us in ways that we can’t do on social media or email.
What does the Native Woodland Trust hope to achieve in the future, what are its aims?
We are also trying to prevent the loss of any more Ancient Woodland. We only have approximately 0.1 percent of those woodlands left – so 99.9 percent have been cut down, and yet now in the 21st century, we’re still losing some of what’s left. We would ultimately like to be able to plant a huge new forest – thousands of acres, which could make a really meaningful difference to people of wildlife.
How can we help the Native Woodland Trust?
There are lots of ways to help – join as a member, sponsor some trees – as presents, to offset your carbon or just because you want to. Come and volunteer with us – especially if you live near one of our reserves, there’s always lots of work to get involved with. If you run a company or work for one who will listen – get them to take out a corporate sponsorship with us.
Are businesses and specific corporations causing the most issues regarding the conservation of our landscapes?
Obviously agriculture and industry has a huge impact – but we as individuals are consuming these outputs and as a species, humanity needs to change its very wasteful behaviour. If we become less wasteful, we can change the behaviour of those businesses that produce them and who use up our natural resources.
Wherever humans go, we tend to wipe out wildlife. We need to give some space back to nature and to leave it to its own devices, without human interference.
What is it about Ireland’s landscapes that makes you so inspired and passionate?
For such a small island, we have such diverse landscapes, many of them as dramatic and picturesque as anywhere in the world. Within these, there are so many wild habitats that are home to our many native plants and animals. There’s something still innately wild about Ireland and its landscapes and its always a pleasure to be outdoors in nature in Ireland.
You can watch the Melodic Wood’s All Together Now journey here –and join the conversation using #WorldWithoutWaste. To volunteer with the Native Woodland Trust, click here.
The giggles, the embarrassment and the speculation circled the classroom – a lady was on her way to teach us about sex.
Cue the dildo sitting in the centre of the table and the dodgy glances between a bunch of 17-year-old girls.
After a brief, two-sentence description on what a penis was – it was whipped away, as the woman exclaimed that we would be WAAAY too distracted by the sight of the male anatomy – b*tch, please.
Periods, pregnancy and STIs were mentioned, and that was it – that's all I can remember about my sex education in school – but it seems like I was one of the lucky ones.
Grilling the SHEmazing office about their sex ed, more often than not I got the reply of – 'we didn't get any,' 'I went to an all-girls school,' or 'there was the advice of waiting until you were married.'
I'm not gonna lie but I was stunned – but I don't know why? If you even try to talk to the majority of Irish men about periods – they're clueless, and that it isn't entirely their fault – it's the culture we've been raised with.
Shame around sex, unplanned pregnancy and masturbation are commonplace in classrooms around the country.
But the lack of sex education means that young people are missing out on serious topics too – these are just a number of topics that weren't discussed in our Irish sex education lessons.
However, the topic of miscarriage could and should have been spoken about, so if you ever find yourself in this heartbreaking situation, you know what to do and what to expect – to know that you aren't alone and you haven't done anything wrong in your pregnancy.
Fertility issues are very common in our society, particularly conditions such as endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome – yet we weren't given any information about the signs, symptoms and treatments available.
Contraception and STIs
Though some of us got the condom on the banana job – most of us didn't get a good understanding of what types of different options we have out there.
What the side effects come with different contraceptives, how effective they may or may not be and how crucial double protection is – (I now have a four-year-old thanks to this).
And although some of us got to grips with STDs and STIs, it was with a lot of stigma instead of real advice.
Education and being comfortable with the subject is becoming more and more important as there had been a 10 percent increase in STIs from 2016 to 2017.
We were all dragged to various Irish beaches as a child, and most likely didn't appreciate them for how beautiful they were at the time.
From the beaches of Wexford like Curracloe and Rosslare to the Wild Atlantic Way's gems along the Dingle peninsula and Sligo; we've got some absolute beauties in the Emerald Isle.
Apparently, everyone else in the world agrees with this statement. A travel media company which specialises in travel guides for adventurers, Big 7, has named a County Mayo beach as number 11 in the world.
Keem Bay in Mayo has earned the 11th spot in their list of the global 50 best beaches, and we're fairly chuffed with ourselves.
First Skellig Michael appears in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, and now the beaches around Achill Island are reppin'? We're certainly punching above our weight.
"Keem Bay is a breathtaking rural and sheltered beach surrounded by cliffs on Ireland's largest island – Achill Island. Its gleaming white sand rivals tropical islands and the water is superbly clear."
They add: "The sun might not always be shining, but when it does it’s world-class. And yes, it’s beautiful even on a rainy day." Dead right.
The beach is cradled by the rolling green hills of Benmore and Croaghaun mountain on three sides and opens out onto clear blue waters. It's brilliant if you want an escape from urban life.
We were narrowly beaten from entering the top 10 by famed Pig Beach in the Bahamas. Zlanti rat (Golden Horn Beach) in Brac, Croatia, snagged the number one spot.
Glass Beach in California, black sand beaches of Reynisfjara Beach in Vík í Mýrdal, Iceland, the unpolluted Grace Bay in Turks and Caicos and dunes of Whitehaven Beach in Whitsunday Islands, Australia, were also included.
Praia do Camilo in Lagos, Portugal, with its orange cliffs and golden sandy beaches, also landed in the top 10. The beaches are all otherworldly and stunning in their own right, so we're considering ourselves lucky to have even made the top 50.
"It's a shock to say the least. We found out with everyone else, he was completely secret the whole time so the shock was very large in our house last night in Corbally.
"Look, we’re happy for him, he’s clearly having such a good time so let's just see what happens," she added.
"He took off from Paris, he was over there, we did get a weird request for a couple pairs of shorts and sunglasses but we just thought it was for Paris and that he had met a lovely girl in Paris, but no, he was packing a bag for Majorca."