Lois Roberts-Lebbie, who is from Sierra Leone, had her idea of Christmas completely changed by a wonderful experience with a family in Cork

This is not just another Christmas fairy-tale; it is a unique story about the irresistible Christmas spirit that exists in Ireland. With the pandemic, the celebration this year has been different. Though Covid-19 is knocking the world down, we still figured it out that in solidarity we could still celebrate this year’s Christmas, albeit with masks on our faces while shopping for food and clothing.

Being an adult, Christmas to me was just like any other holiday as I usually think of it as a festival for kids. Now however, after my Irish Christmas experience, I have a very different perspective. I see it as a time to share love not only with your family but with those who are within your reach.

Feeling lost

As an international student, I felt a bit lost in a strange land, with family afar and with only magical dreams of spreading my wings to fly back home to celebrate Christmas with my family. But then an unforgettable moment happened when a family in Ireland asked me to spend Christmas with them.

Thoughts ran through my mind thinking about what Christmas in Ireland would look like, as I was in the middle of connecting dots with Christmas back home. I cleared my mind like a blank cheque and got ready to ‘move’ to the beat of an Irish Christmas. To my amazement, I never imagined that this Christmas would change how I spend Christmas with my family back home from now on.

Christmas tradition

I was picked up from school on Christmas Eve and we spent a beautiful evening together, with everyone heading to bed early as they wanted to wake up very early for their normal Christmas tradition.

I was lost in the middle of it all. However, early on Christmas morning, everyone was awake, and we gathered in the sitting room. There, the Christmas tree had brightly wrapped presents from parents to their children and from children to their parents. The room was filled with passion! Surprisingly, I even received a gift. The atmosphere was full of love and excitement. This was not really the same as back home where we just eat together and buy new items for our children before Christmas.

Communal love

We then went to Mass and the priest’s key message was about sharing love. After that, we returned home where lunch was served. A whole turkey was in the centre of the table with so many other tasty dishes surrounding it. We wolfed it down with some nice wine. Music was played throughout and we were cheerful.

Christmas in Ireland was nothing like what I had imagined. I have learned how to share more love on Christmas Day and turkey will now be included in my family’s meal back home. If this is how important Christmas is, I would love to celebrate it by combining the Irish way with that of Sierra Leone because this memory of communal love will forever linger in my heart.

Lois is pursuing an MSc in Social Policy at University College Cork