Tuesday, December 13, 2011

December 2011 - Celtic Corner

In Ireland, late fall is the time of the year to make the house ready for the upcoming holiday celebrations. An Irish home is cleaned top to bottom and special holiday linens would be brought out of storage. Olden days in Ireland would see the home being white washed and general repairs to the home. Once all is clean it is ready for festive Christmas decorating.
Irish Celtic Traditions
No Irish home would be complete without the holly. Holly with its glossy green leaves and festive red berries are perfect for the holiday decorating. At Christmas in Ireland, holly was used to decorate the entire house. A spray was placed over the door as well as on the mantle, around picture frames, among the plates on the cupboard, as candle rings and in other areas of the home. Gifts of holly boughs were also given to neighbors. One charming folklore superstition was that the fairy folk would come in out of
the cold to find shelter in the holly branches.
Irish Food
The Christmas cooking would start early with the making of the plum pudding, breads and spiced beef. A traditional Irish Christmas meal might consist of roasted goose, potatoes, cranberry sauce, vegetable, sausages and puddings. Spiced beef is often eaten sliced cold with fresh bread in the days after the main feast.
Irish Hospitality
Hospitality is abundant in Ireland and it is reflected in many holiday customs. A lighted candle would be placed in the window as a welcome beacon for both traveler and wandering priest. The candle is placed in the window on Christmas Eve to signify the welcome to the Holy Family looking for shelter. Anther aspect of Irish hospitality is seen after the Christmas meal. The doors are left unlocked and the table is set with bread and milk for travelers who might come in the night after seeing the welcome of the lighted candle in the window.
The Twelve Days of Christmas
The twelve days of Christmas are celebrated between the birth of Christ, December 25 and the Epiphany (coming of the Magi) January 6. A small gift would be given on each day during this time. The twelve days of Christmas included many festivities including parties and the visiting of friends, family and neighbors. Twelfth night would be the end of the celebrations and the day that holiday decorations were taken down.
An Irish Christmas Blessing
The light of the Christmas star to you
The warmth of home and hearth to you
The cheer and good will of friends to you
The hope of a childlike heart to you
The joy of a thousand angels to you
The love of the Son and God’s peace to you
Nollaig Shona
Happy Christmas
Your Corres Secretary & Parade Chair, Frank Darcy

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

November 2011 - Celtic Corner

Between 1845 and 1850 more than a million Irish people starved to death while massive quantities of food were being exported from their country. A half a million were evicted from their homes during the Potato Blight and a million and a half emigrated to America, Britain and Australia often on board rotting, overcrowded coffin ships. I am going to start this story with some of the conditions that existed then try to explain why & who created some of the worst human suffering known to man.


1.“A cabin was seen closed one day a little out of town, when a man had the curiosity to open it, and in a dark corner he found a family of the father, mother, and two children lying in close compact. The father was considerably decomposed; the mother, it appeared, had died last, and probably fastened the door, which was always the custom when all hope was extinguished, to get into the darkest corner and die, where passers-by could not see them. Such family scenes were quite common, and the cabin was generally pulled down upon them for a grave.”

2. “Going out one cold day in a bleak waste on the coast, I met a pitiful old man in hunger and tatters, with a child on his back, almost entirely naked, and to appearance in the last stages of starvation; whether his naked legs had been scratched or whether the cold had affected them I knew not, but the blood was in small streams in different places, and the sight was a horrid one.  The old man said he lived seven miles off, and was afraid the child would die in the cabin with the two little children he had left starving, and he had come to get the bit of meal, as it was the day he heard food relief was being given out.  The officer told him he had no time to enter his name in the book and he was sent away in that condition.  A penny or two was given him for which he expressed the greatest gratitude.

WORKHOUSES-Initially, the greatest relief to the starving came through the Poor Law (1838), which aimed to provide housing for the absolutely destitute in workhouses. There were 123 of them in Ireland in 1845. Conditions were very harsh in the workhouses and families were torn apart upon arrival. Children were kept apart from their parents, who were also separated. The food provided consisted of two meals a day and all inmates were forced to work and were forbidden to leave

EVICTIONS-Potato cultivation having ended because of the blight, tenants had nothing to live on and could pay no further rents. Sheep and cattle could pay “rent”, so landlords decided to give the land over to them. During the worst months of the famine, in the winter of 1846-47, tens of thousands of Irish tenants were evicted from their homes. In 1850, over 104,000 people were evicted.

SOUP KITCHENS-In 1847 the government brought in the “Act for the Temporary Relief of Destitute Persons in Ireland Act”, also called the Soup Kitchen Act. The soup given out was called “stirabout”, a mixture of one-third rice and two-thirds Indian meal, cooked with water. In some soup kitchens organized by Protestants, people were only allowed the soup if they gave up the Catholic Faith. The Protestants sometimes served meat soup on Fridays, (when Catholics were forbidden to eat meat) or they refused to give soup unless people came to Protestant church or bible class. The Quakers, who were among the hardest working of the soup kitchen organizers, did not engage in these practices.

Your Corres Secretary & Parade Chair, Frank Darcy