October 31, 2023

Ultimate Guide to Irish Sporty Christmas Traditions

Intersport Elverys loves Christmas just as much as us Irish love our Christmas traditions.

And in Ireland, we have some of the best and renowned sport Christmas traditions there is.

Amongst the festivities, the eating and drinking and all that goes with Christmas, we have a rich history of sporting traditions to keep us entertained as well.

Christmas brings all our friends and family home and the sport ties our communities together!

In this blog, we’re going to list some of our favourite and most memorable.

Irish Christmas Sporty Traditions: The Wren (St Stephen’s Day)

The Wren is one of the oldest and most memorable Irish christmas traditions!

Taking place on St Stephen’s Day, December 26, it traditionally saw groups of Wren Boys donning straw suits and masks and working their way through the towns and villages. More recently, you’re likely to see Wren Boys (and girls) at your doors playing irish traditional music.

But what’s sporty about this, you wonder?

Well, originally, this tradition had a competitive spirit. Teams would compete in the hunting of the wren—a symbol of the old year.

Though the actual hunting has long been abandoned, the vigor, rivalry, and athletic undertones of this tradition remained for years, with communities striving to showcase the most lively and vibrant parades.

However, the parades are becoming fewer and far between now, with only a few communities still doing them, such as the Dingle Peninsula.

Irish Sporty Christmas Traditions: Gaelic football and hurling

There are fewer things more Irish than Gaelic football and hurling and even at Christmas we can’t get enough of it.

That’s because of the tradition, history and memories it represents.

Christmas is often the best time to reminisce on the great GAA days of the past and look forward to what the new year has to bring.

Not to mention getting some of the latest GAA jerseys, footballs and hurleys as presents.

Kids and adults alike love them!

But Christmas time is rife for Gaelic football or hurling charity matches across the country. They are less about the competition, although mind you that is often not the case!, but more about the craic and contributing to a good cause.

‘Legends versus Currents’, ‘Old v Young’ or ‘Veterans v Young Fellas’ are always the most popular types of matches and most often they are played on St Stephen’s Day, before a big celebration in one of the hostelries after.

That’s where some of the club’s biggest legends roll back the clock and dust off the boots to try their luck against the lads currently lining out in the club colours!

It can be legendary stuff!

Christmas time can also be a busy time for some clubs who find themselves in the final stages of the All-Ireland Club Championships and have the difficult task of trying to mind themselves and not over-indulge over the Christmas period.

And not to forget the legendary Poc Fada enjoyed by so many communities across the country, where participants compete to hit a sliotar over a distance with the fewest pucks.

Irish Sporty Christmas Traditions: Christmas Day Swim

We love a bit of hardship in Ireland what’s more difficult to running into freezing water on Christmas Day?

The Christmas morning swim is one of the most energising and exciting Christmas traditions that have developed in Ireland in recent times.

The old year is washed away and the new one is ushered in with a splash along some of our most frigid coasts, from the Forty Foot in Dublin to the beaches of Galway.

A tribute to the fortitude and togetherness of the Irish people, it is more than just a cool dip. It is a touching fusion of benevolence and athleticism because many people who take part do so for charity.

For instance, in 2019, a sizable gathering braved the water at Myrtleville Beach in Cork while raising money for nearby charity.

This act perfectly captured the holiday mood and, you don’t feel as guilty for over-indulging on the food and drink later in the day.

The GOAL Mile Christmas Tradition Run

The GOAL Mile is another fun custom that unites sport and the holiday season.

This event, which was started in 1982 by the humanitarian organisation GOAL, allows participants to walk, jog or run a mile on Christmas Day in order to raise money for a good cause.

What began as a modest project in Dublin’s Phoenix Park has since grown into a national phenomenon.

On Christmas morning, countless people lace up their running shoes and log their miles.

Running is such a fun and popular sport right now, and doing it with your friends and family whilst raising some money for a much-needed cause at Christmas time makes it even more enjoyable.

Horse Racing Fest

One of Ireland’s most popular sports enjoys one of its most famous festivals during Christmas time.

No festive season in Ireland is complete without the iconic Leopardstown Christmas Festival in Dublin, a four-day extravaganza that sees some of the finest horses and jockeys in action.

Then there’s the Limerick’s Christmas Racing Festival, another beacon of yuletide racing.

But beyond the races and their competitive thrill, these events are social tapestries. There’s the tradition of donning festive hats, the banter-filled betting queues, and age-old family traditions of attending the races.

And who could forget the sight of families reuniting, with generations spanning from wide-eyed children to tale spinning grandparents, all under the backdrop of the country’s most spirited races?

St Stephen’s Day Rowing

St Stephen’s Day in Ireland is not merely a land-based holiday; it is also a day when the River Shannon comes alive with rowing events.

The Shannon St Stephen’s Day Regatta is a well-known occasion that attracts teams from all across the nation who are all competing for the privilege of winning this coveted race.

Similar to this, the Limerick City Rowing Club regularly hosts its unique St Stephen’s Day races, where the best rowers in the city demonstrate their prowess in front of an enthusiastic crowd.

In addition, communities with long traditions of rowing, like Athlone and Killaloe, hold smaller-scale local events that are nonetheless incredibly important to the locals.

The events are always great fun, full of festive cheers and is testament to Ireland’s love of rowing, even in the freezing cold!


Is there any Irish sporty Christmas traditions that might take place in your hometown that we may have left out?

Feel free to let us know and share the Christmas spirit.

These sporting events are not to be taken for granted; they are communal gatherings, where we share happy moments and exchange great stories.

Intersport Elverys is here to help you in whatever way you choose to pass your Christmas time.

Check out our wide range below.