Nov 30, 2012

5 Irish Christmas Traditions

1. The Candle in the Window
Who doesn't love the simplicity of this? The tradition states that the candle will welcome Mary and Joseph as they wander because there is no room in the inn. Have you ever asked yourself if you were there at the time would you have turned them away? That's something I ask myself. I just turned away the Mormons at the door. (But I was nice about it.) Still...I keep asking myself that question. Do I open my heart?

Candle in Window, Decorative
Photo by sugargliding
2. Holly on the front door.
This stems from pre-Christian reverence for the holly tree but other trees were probably more sacred such as the yew and hazel. Christian tradition sees the holly as representing Christ's crown of thorns. It's considered good luck in Ireland to have a holly bush (or tree) planted by the front door. I have my own two wee bushes this year and I'm thinking of sticking some holly in a wreath. What do you hang on your door?


Holly On The Door
Photo by  philwhln


3. Plum pudding
Anyone in America eat this? It's a whole lot of work, but if you're game, here's a recipe: Irish Central's Plum Pudding

4. Roasted goose
There are plenty of Canada geese around here that I'd be happy if someone roasted, but I'm not sure I'd eat one. What about you?

Roasted goose
Photo by  th0mi
5. Midnight mass
I've never been. Our church has an 11PM service, but I've never been to that either. I'm a big fan of sleep, I guess. Still, it seems like bringing in Christmas Day at church would be special. Please, share with me which of these traditions you keep and why they are special to you.

Christmas midnight Mass
Photo by  rikki480


It seems to me that if you took the time to decorate, make that pudding and roast that goose, you'd be entirely too tired for midnight mass. I know I would be. Whew!

Nov 22, 2012

Blessings on Your Home This Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

To recognize this day, I thought I would share a few sayings and blessings from my book, Celtic Wisdom, Treasures From Ireland.


Many Irish hang a St. Brigid's cross over their fireplace and say a blessing like this over it.

May the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost be on this cross and on the place where it hangs and on everyone who looks on it.~Old Irish Blessing (p. 34)


What kinds of traditions does your family practice and pass down?

For it is not by path of feet, nor by motion of body, that one draws nigh to God, but it is through practice of good customs and virtues.  From the Life of St. Columba (Leabhar Breac) (p. 45)


Have you made your home a "home sweet home?"

A man will not be found where he lives, but rather where he loves. ~Old Irish Saying (p. 63)


Cherish your family times. Give hugs. Laugh. Count your blessings.

As he brought new faith to Ireland so may he bring to you, a touch of Irish happiness in everything you do; and like the good St. Patrick may your home and life be blessed, with all God's special favours which make you happiest. ~Old Irish Blessing (p. 23)





fake Irish cottage
Photo by jodimarr

Nov 16, 2012

When the Voices Are Gone

heart shape
Photo by inezzy

I'm writing this post because I know I'm not alone. There are countless others like me who have lost someone close. There was the me before, the girl whose family was intact, even if dysfunctional --there, I said it--but intact and loving. When you're the baby of the family you arrive with the family complete. Additions are made when people marry and have babies, but the core is there.

And then...someone dies. And you wonder how to define yourself in light of that.

I had three sisters. Now I have two. That just doesn't feel right. (And this is about me, not her, because I know she's happier now.)

We had parents. Two. Now we have one.

It had to happen. Bodies wear out. Health declines. Life is temporary. We all know that.

And while these two deaths occurred over two years ago, life still doesn't seem right. It's the me after. The girl who sometimes wonders who she is without these people in her life now.

Of course I know death is a part of life. And there are more losses to come. And the experience has taught me a lot about trust and faith in the One who opens the pathway to heaven.

I have my own family that I treasure. I still have extended family and my husband's family. There are still a lot of great memories to make. But even so, it's the me after...

I'm currently writing a novel about a girl who is struggling with the very same thing. She wonders if she'll ever find a place to call home without her father, who had been her only family. You might think I'm writing about me, but I started this novel before I experienced these losses. And now that I'm working on it again, it will be published in 2014, the pain feels new again. But this time I'm grieving for Annie, the character in my novel. She'll learn what I learned but in the meantime I know how lost and sad she feels. And I know many people feel that way, even though each person grieves differently.

God is calling Annie home. Not home to heaven. Not in this story. But home to Him where she can find comfort, shelter, and even the courage to reach out to others because after all, we're all family going through similar struggles and losses, and joys too.

Had to preach to myself today. Hope you didn't mind.

Nov 3, 2012

The Longing of the Celtic Soul

From my book, Celtic Wisdom:

All souls, not only the Celtic soul, are restless. The Irish monks became wanderers precisely because of this longing to find their hearts' desire. Originally an eighth-century Irish prayer, they hymn 'Be Thou My Vision' beautifully expresses the Celtic soul's longing for God:

Scroll to the bottom to hear Roma Downey's version.

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee, Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle-shield, sword for my fight,
Be Thou my dignity, Thou my delight.
Thou my soul's shelter, Thou my high tower.
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise,
Thou mine inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of heaven, my victory won,
May I reach heaven's joys, O bright heav'ns Son!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my vision, O ruler of all.
TRANSLATED BY MARY E. BYRNE, VERSED BY ELEANOR H. HULL (1912) 

Nov 1, 2012

Changing of the Seasons

November Rain
Photo by  Joffley

It's now the dark half of the year. Time to brew a cup of tea and snuggle up in front of the fire.

I miss the beautiful fall colors. While the trees were putting on a spectacular show I remarked to my husband that we had to enjoy them now, and remember what they looked like because this would soon pass. Like when our children were babies.

But the dark half of the year has its own virtue. It's a time of rest and reflection. A time to plan for the warmer months. A time to enjoy the closeness that drives us inside together.

I included the last bit of this poem in my book, Celtic Wisdom, but because of space restrictions I was not able to use the entire poem. Here is the whole thing:

My tidings for you: the stag bells,
Winter snows, summer is gone.
Wind high and cold, low the sun,
Short his course, sea running high.
Deep-red the bracken, its shape all gone--
The wild-goose has raised his wonted cry.
Cold has caught the wings of birds;
Season of ice--these are my tidings.

FROM 'SUMMER IS GONE', TRANSLATED BY KUNO MEYER


What are your feelings about the changing of seasons? What do you look forward to?