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‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…
…Except for at Dublin Airport, where they were gearing up for the annual Christmas Day ceremony, the “blessing of the planes.”
Ireland’s busiest airport closes on December 25 – the one day of the year planes aren’t taking off or touching down.
But instead of taking a day off, the airport authorities used the break for the important business of getting the planes a festive blessing from God.
Graeme McQueen, media relations manager for daa, which operates Dublin Airport, told CNN that the annual blessing ceremony dates back to 1947.
“Originally the blessing involved Aer Lingus aircraft, all of which are named after saints,” he said.
“Back then [in 1947] the blessing took place each summer, but from 1967 onwards, with the airport getting busier, it has taken place on Christmas Day, which is the only day of the year that Dublin Airport is closed.”
It’s not just limited to Aer Lingus these days – even budget carrier Ryanair’s planes get some holy attention.
“The annual blessing these days is ecumenical and covers the general fleet,” said McQueen.
Ireland, of course, is a predominantly Catholic country. Around 69% of the population in the 2022 census described themselves as Catholic.
The blessing is carried out in recent years by Father Desmond “Des” Doyle, the chaplain in residence at the airport’s church, Our Lady Queen of Heaven. The church is located between the two terminals. The airport also has a multi faith prayer room in Terminal 2.
In photos posted to social media, Doyle was shown carrying a chalice of holy water onto the airfield, accompanied by another priest, as well as airport police.
In the past, the planes were blessed individually, but the airport is too busy these days to make that possible. A whopping 30.2 million passengers passed through the airport in 2022 – a nearly 250% increase on the previous year. Instead, the priest carries out a general blessing from the airfield, said the spokesperson.
Father Doyle is no stranger to travel – or to Dublin Airport – himself. Born in Rush, 12 miles northeast of the airport, he was working in Newport Beach, California, when he was recalled to serve as the airport chaplain in 2008, a report said at the time.