HOW TO HAVE AN IRISH CHRISTMAS
ere's how you can create a traditional Irish Christmas in your home.
1. Decorations. Plan early, and buy the decorations for your tree. In old Ireland, the locals would have had none of this of course. They would have gone out into the countryside and picked Holly to put behind every picture on the wall, along the mantleshelves over the fireplace, Behind the plates on the dresser, and sometimes they would have a bunch of mistletoe hanging by the door.
If you want some gloriously Irish decorations for the tree however, you can do no better than a visit, virtual or otherwise, to Bronners Christmas Wonderland, where you will find decorations from all over Ireland. There are shamrocks and pigs, leprechauns and bright emerald green glass baubles with Irish messages on them. Go to Word Tour further along this site, and link to Bronners - dont forget to mention us when you go there, and give Wally Bronner my best wishes!
Next Music: Visit Amazon.com for the following seasonal offerings, guaranteed to give your Irish Christmas an authentic tone.
Traditional Celtic Christmas Eric Rigler. lots of Irish and traditional Celtic seasonal music here for good background, in a good budget priced CD at only $4.98.
Better, and appropriately dearer, is the latest of a series of Celtic Christmas CD's:
Celtic Christmas IV. Contains few tunes that you would recognise unless you were brought up in the old Country, but the real thing here. As the reviewer says, it is more haunting and lovely than the previous, if that is possible, but the essential Irishness is rather marred by the addition of 'Christmas Time is Coming', which would be better elsewhere.
A Celtic Heartbeat was released in 1997, and has a good blend of the real Irish music such as Oiche Nollaig, to the popular Wexford Carol. Plenty of Irish foot tapping Fiddles here!
I came across another recording called An Irish Christmas by Danny O'Flaherty, and with a name like that he must be able to produce the right sounds! A Vocal selection of songs and carols, but I have not heard this one myself.
Finally, Shamrocks & Holly, an Irish Christmas Celebration will suit the most those who prefer their music to be more traditionally popular. From Away in a Manger to Turkey Reel and Tommy Coen's Christmas Eve, you can have a party with this one. There are samplers to help you decide if its the one for you too.
Ok, so you have your music and your decorations. Now you want some reading matter to immerse yourself in the atmosphere of an Irish Christmas before you pick up the broom and get to the real work.
First take your cookbook, and one of the very best titles I have come across is called
Simply delicious Irish Christmas by Darina Allen. This book is not out until November 1998. But it is the only title I have come across which specialises in Irish Christmas cooking, as opposed to a general Irish cookery book. This is available from both Amazon, and for British/Euro buyers, from Internet Book Shop, both accessible from here.
All silver and no Brass is a Christmas mumming play story, quite an old title, but special. From this you can glean how the Irish in days gone by entertained themselves with these Christmas plays.
An Irish Country Christmas This is the bible of Irish Christmas home-making! You can read about the ceremonial lighting of the Christmas candle, the chimney sweep who begins the frantic housecleaning ceremonies, the Holly gathering and much more in the authors very readable tales of childhood Christmases in Ireland. Worth buying.
The Soul of Christmas. A Celtic Musical celebration with Thomas Moore. You get both a book and not one but two CDs with this one and all for $18.89! The book tells of the customs and symbols of Irish Christmas, which CD 1. has the author telling about such things, with an accompaniment of music and verse. The other CD has his own choice of Celtic Carols and Christmas music. Most enjoyable!
My own favourite dip-into book of Irish Christmas is by John Killen, and is called, appropriately, The Irish Christmas Book A nostalgic anthology of Irish Christmas celebration (or not, if you read George Bernard Shaw's miserable epistle!) from the 1600's to the 20th century.
Now, remember I said you would have to pick up your broom? This is it!
Two main features leap out of Irish Christmas celebration. The cleaning of the house from top to bottom. In the Irish farmsteads into living memory, they would even whitewash or re-decorate for Christmas. Every window and glass sparking, all the silver polished till it shone. Hams to be cooked, cakes to be made, yards to be swept clean, and especially the animals quarters to be completely cleaned out - much to the annoyance of the family dog who, from my own experience, prefers his familiar doggy smells around him! Fresh curtain up, evergreens everywhere, and you are done. Now you can sit down and enjoy a glass of Bailey's Irish Cream, which we get in Britain, and I hope you all get wherever you are, it is the most delicious drink!
Christmas Eve, you must light a candle, or for safety's sake, an electric one, in the window. This is an ancient custom, from which has sprung the customs of putting a candelabra or a lighted tree in the window, or bag lights (luminaria) on your driveway. It is a welcome to anyone abroad on Christmas Eve, especially in memory of the Holy Family looking for somewhere to stay.
Follow these traditions, and you will enjoy a real Irish Christmas!