An Irish Christmas: The Irish have a different approach to the season

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How many people have asked you “Are you ready for Christmas?”The question often stirs some laughter, sighs, a moan perhaps, “ready as I’ll ever be”…….  rarely do I hear the simple response, “well, yes, actually, I am.”

I think this is an American thing or at least we started it, and like Halloween, it has spread to other countries. Someday we may hear of Thanksgiving being celebrated in Germany.  When I was young and impressionable I happened to be in the west of Ireland over the Christmas holidays. At that age,  I was quiet, perhaps a bit shy, but studiously observed people and events. That Irish Christmas made an enormous impression on me.

I noticed that people were not preparing for the big day. Rather,  Christmas was all around us all the time. It seemed to start mid-December and went on into somewhere in January. What I mean, for example, is this: at any time you could meet up with some one, and, it WAS Christmas. As this might be the only time you see them over the holidays, well, then, this day was Christmas, so belly up and enjoy. What I am trying to say is Christmas was not one day’s events, but a long line of celebrations. There was little focus on the big the day, the 25th, but much more focus on being with family and friends you love at any time, any where, over the course  of about one month.

Family did not wait till the 25th to give gifts. These were given, it seemed, whenever one felt like it. So in the family kitchen on a Saturday  a week before Christmas Day, a brother, let’s say Sean, would give his sister, let’s say Una,  a gift, with other siblings around, and the sister Una would be delighted with the gift from Sean, and all other siblings and parents and anyone else who happened to be around, delighted for her and him, and there was no need for any other gift to be produced. Let’s just enjoy this moment of Una’s, for isn’t she lovely and we all love her…..now, how about another cup of tea?

I was sharing this memory with my family on the weekend before Christmas. My son left the room and returned with a gift for me. Then he asked if we could have an Irish Christmas this year…making every  day of the coming week ahead Christmas.

So we did. And as I  sit here in my reading room early on Christmas morning and everyone else still asleep, I can tell you it has been, is, and will be lovely. My heartfelt thanks  once again to the people in the West of Ireland for teaching me how to live this wonderful, mysterious, blessed  life we each have been given.

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