The Late Late Toy Show: An Irish Christmas Tradition

My fellow Americans: With Thanksgiving now behind us, I hope everyone has accepted the reality that the Christmas season is upon us. In Ireland, this means it’s time for the Late Late Toy Show!!

This show is unlike anything you’ve seen in the US before. It’s live and dependent on children behaving and paying attention to keep things moving and of course we know that doesn’t always happen. Aired for the first time in 1975 on RTÉ (Raidió Teilifís Éireann) One, The Late Late Toy Show was hosted by beloved Irish television presenter Gay Byrne, who sadly passed this year. His desire to stand up for human rights and support all Irish people is something he started with the show, and that sense of inclusion is still present on the set today. It is a talk show that’s admittedly for children, but it warms the adult heart and soul, and we all need more of this around Christmas time.

This years theme is Frozen. Over 200 kids participate in the day. Some kids are testing cool toys for the cameras in front of a live (festively dressed) crowd. Some kids play games, some sing, dance or play piano, and all of them remind us what it’s like to see the world through their eyes.

The hundreds of toys are played with and then donated to local children’s charities. The children are very excited to be on set and they giggle and jump with excitement. I’m not going to sugar coat this, you’re going to cry like a baby. But that’s part of the pull. The Late Late Toy Show gives us Americans a glimpse into the famous Irish hospitality and gift of gab that the entire world envies and loves.

The host, Ryan Tubrity, has been doing this since 2009 and is hands on to say the least. This man is tall and lanky with a different Christmas sweater every 30 minutes- four total. The first time I saw the show I thought he was a little rough around the edges. I’m used to seeing a tv host have every move choreographed and planned, but this man doesn’t operate like that. He’s awkward and looks more than a little uncomfortable at times with kids rolling all over the set, and artificial snow and sustainable glitter being thrown all over the place. But then, out of nowhere, he’s honest, and genuine, and gets emotional talking to the kids. It can’t be easy. He reminds us that not every child has an ideal life, without heartache and pain. And he treats each one as an individual. He tells each one they are important and special- just like they deserve. I wanted to reach in through the TV and hug him.

Not only do I feel a sense of Christmas spirit while I’m watching, but I feel a sense of pride in being Irish. This is what Christmas means- giving to those who need it most, and providing some magic for others. The Irish understand it, they get it. And on the Late Late Toy Show, they share that magic with us.

Please, download the RTE Player app. Pop some popcorn, make some hot chocolate. Then watch the Late Late Toy Show with your own kids. Spend the time with your family, grateful for what you have, and experiencing the unmatched giving, care and compassion of the Irish.

Happy Christmas!!

P.S. Here’s the link to all the toys on the show:

P.P.S. Here are some of the Irish charities:

Jack and Jill Children’s Foundation

Laura Lynn – Ireland’s Children’s Hospice

Children’s Health Ireland at Crumlin and Temple Street