Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Genealogy treasure "show and tell": Deadline Jan. 3, 2010

The upcoming 17th edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture will be a Genealogy treasure "show and tell". Here are the details:

Genealogists are treasure hunters of a different kind. Instead of searching for riches, we dig for information. Instead of prizing gold, we value documents - the visual proof of the life stories of families that have passed before us.

Share with us the image of and the story behind a document (or documents) that have been valuable to you during your search for an Irish branch of your family. How and where did you find these documents? What are their significance to your research and/or why are they special to you? Here's your chance to show off some of your genealogical "loot" at our online "show and tell".

Deadline for submissions to the Genealogy treasure "show and tell" edition of the carnival is Sunday, January 3, 2010. This edition will be published at Small-leaved Shamrock on Thursday, January 7, 2010 .

Genealogists - get ready to show us your stuff at the upcoming show and tell carnival!

For past editions or other information about the carnival, visit the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture blog.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A candle in the window on Christmas Eve (Advent Calendar: Christmas Eve)

Christmas Eve is a magical time. The waiting of Advent is over and the celebration of the Savior's birth is about to begin.

One beautiful way that the Irish have traditionally kept this holy night is with the lighting of a candle in the window. The warm light from its glow acts as a welcome to all so that no one should be without shelter.

Offering hospitality to others by way of a lighted candle is a tradition as old as ancient Ireland. In more recent centuries during times of persecution in Ireland, the candle offered a welcome to priests that the home was a safe haven and that Mass could be offered there. On Christmas Eve, the candle also symbolizes the willingness of the household to welcome the Holy Family, so that the Infant Jesus and his family would not again be turned away. One Irish belief held that Joseph, Mary and Jesus still wandered the world, seeking a place of refuge from Herod.

The words of The Kerry Carol, written by Sigerson Clifford, admonish us to be sure to provide a welcome for the Holy Family on this special night before Christmas. Below are verses two and seven. I've placed the full version of the song here.

Verse 2
Ná múch an coinneal ard bán,
Ach fág é lásta go geal.
Go mbeidh siad cinnte ar aon
go bhfuil fáilte is fiche roimh cách
Sa teach ar an Oiche Nollag naofa seo!


Don't blow the tall white candle out
But leave it burning bright,
So that they'll know they're welcome here
This holy Christmas night!


Verse 7
Ná cur ar an ndoras ach an laiste anocht!
Agus coimead na gríosaigh beó -
Agus guí go mbeidh siad fén ar ndíon anocht
Agus an domhan 'na chodladh go suan.

Leave the door upon the latch,
And set the fire to keep,
And pray they'll rest with us tonight
When all the world's asleep.



Tim Dennehy, who has recorded The Kerry Carol, has also written a song of his own to be sung in welcome of the Holy Family on Christmas Eve.

Tim has taken a traditional Irish prayer of welcome and added additional verses and a refrain. His song, An Nollaig Theas, begins as follows:

Dia do bheatha 'dir asal is damh gan riar
Dia do bheatha id' leanbh, id Fhlaith gan chiach
Dia do bheatha ód' Fhlaithis go teach na bpian
Dia do bheathasa 'Íosa.

Dún do shúil a Rí an tSolais, dún do shúile ríoga
Dún do shúil a Shaoi an tSonais, dún do shúile síoda.



Translated to English, the words are:

God's greeting to you untended 'tween ox and ass
God's greeting to you Child and Prince serene
God's greeting to you from heaven to the hour of pain
God's greeting to you dear Jesus.

Close your eyes oh King of light, close your regal eyes
Close your eyes oh fount of happiness, close your silken eyes.



You can find the rest of the lyrics to the song on Tim Dennehy's website Sceilig.com.

If you choose to light a candle in your window this Christmas Eve and would like to follow Irish tradition, remember that it requires that the candle be left burning throughout the night. Oh, and it must only be blown out by one having the name of Mary! Or was that the youngest child in the family? Actually it might have been the youngest child who would, of course, be named Mary.

No matter. As long as you get the candle in the window I think any Irishman or woman would be feel welcomed at your home on Christmas Eve, not to mention Mary, Joseph and the Infant Jesus.

Image courtesy of DoChara.com.

This article is part of a series written in celebration of the Advent and Christmas seasons. It will be included as part of the GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2009 Day 24: Christmas Eve. Make a visit to Thomas MacEntee's GeneaBloggers website for some additional inspiration to get yourself in the holiday spirit!

The article originally appeared here at Small-leaved Shamrock and was included in Thomas MacEntee's Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2007.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Can't forget Killarney... (Advent Calendar: Christmas Music)

Speaking of Christmas carols, I can't help but mention one of my favorites. It also evokes a traditional Irish Christmas like the songs I wrote about earlier, but it is certainly a more modern song.

The carol I'm referring to is Christmas in Killarney by John Redmond, James Cavanaugh and Frank Weldon. Bobby Vinton's version of the song conjures up memories for me of my childhood living room: me resting on the floor below the Christmas tree with Christmas in Killarney playing on the stereo system's record player. It might have been the very song that inspired me to learn how to use the record player and place the needle at just the right place so that I could repeat my favorite song, although I remember enjoying all the songs on Bobby Vinton's Christmas album.

Only now listening to it again do I realize all the references to Irish culture in the song: the holly leaves, the ivy green, the mistletoe, the jigs and reels...

Click here for Jim Corbett and Chris Caswell's version of the song, sung with a nice Irish brogue.

Here are the words (a more complete set of lyrics than the ones used in the audio version linked above):

Christmas In Killarney

Verse:
The holly green, the ivy green
The prettiest picture you've ever seen
Is Christmas in Killarney
With all of the folks at home
It's nice, you know, to kiss your beau
While cuddling under the mistletoe
And Santa Claus you know, of course
Is one of the boys from home

Bridge:
The door is always open
The neighbors pay a call
And Father John before he's gone
Will bless the house and all
Our Hearts are light, our spirits bright
We'll celebrate our joy tonight
Is Christmas in Killarney
With all of the folks at home

Repeat Verse

Bridge:
We'll decorate the Christmas tree
When all the family's here
Around a roaring fire
We will raise a cup of cheer
There's gifts to bring,
And songs to sing
And laughs to make the rafters ring
Is Christmas in Killarney
With all of the folks at home

Repeat Verse

Bridge:
We'll take the horse and sleigh all
Across the fields of snow
Listening to the jingle bells
Everywhere we go
How grand it feels to click your heels
And dance away to the jigs and reels
It's Christmas in Killarney
With all of the folks at home

Repeat Verse

Is Christmas in Killarney
With all of the folks at home

This article is part of a series written in celebration of the Advent and Christmas seasons. It will be included as part of the GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2009 Day 21: Christmas Music. Make a visit to Thomas MacEntee's GeneaBloggers website for some additional inspiration to get yourself in the holiday spirit!

The article originally appeared here at Small-leaved Shamrock and was included in Thomas MacEntee's Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2007. In the mood for more Christmas carols? Check out footnote Maven's "heavenly host" at A Choir of GeneaAngels. The angel to footnote Maven's right in the center of the choir is standing in for me.

Sing of Christmas! (Advent Calendar: Christmas Music)

The Irish have long been known for their love of music, their talent for writing poetry, and their devotion to faith. All of these come together beautifully in traditional Irish Christmas carols.

You may not be as familiar with The Wexford Carol and others as with some of the more frequently-played modern-day carols and other traditional favorites. But the richness of the words and the Irish charm of the music may call you to make these carols an important part of your family's Christmas celebration.

The Wexford Carol is one of the oldest Irish carols and may date back to the 12th century. You can find the audio version of the music here or here. These are the words:

The Wexford Carol

Good people all, this Christmas-time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
In sending his beloved Son.

With Mary holy we should pray
To God with love this Christmas day;
In Bethlehem upon that morn
There was a blessed Messiah born.

The night before that happy tide
The noble Virgin and her guide
Were long time seeking up and down
To find a lodging in the town.

But mark how all things came to pass;
From every door repelled alas!
As long foretold, their refuge all
Was but an humble ox's stall.

There were three wise men from afar
Directed by a glorious star,
And on they wandered night and day
Until they came where Jesus lay,

And when they came unto that place
Where our beloved Messiah was,
They humbly cast them at his feet,
With gifts of gold and incense sweet.

Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep
Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep;
To whom God's angels did appear,
Which put the shepherds in great fear.

"Prepare and go", the angels said.
'To Bethlehem, be not afraid,
For there you'll find this happy morn,
A princely babe, sweet Jesus born.

With thankful heart and joyful mind,
The shepherds went the babe to find,
And as God's angel had foretold,
They did our savior Christ behold.

Within a manger he was laid,
And by his side the virgin maid,
Attending on the Lord of life,
Who came on earth to end all strife.

A newer but also well-loved Irish song, The Kerry Christmas Carol (An Ciarrí Carúl Nollag), was first published in 1955 in a book of poetry entitled Ballads of a Bogman. Written by Sigerson Clifford, it focuses on a traditional Irish Christmas Eve custom. Each household welcomes the Holy Family to their home by lighting a candle and placing it in a window. According to Jack & Vivian Hennessey's Irish Page about the Kerry carol, "There was a pious belief that Joseph and Mary and the Child still wandered the roads of the world, looking for a place to rest from the persecution of Herod. That they should show a preference for the roads of rural Ireland was accepted as a given."

The only online audio version of The Kerry Christmas Carol that I could find is this little snippet from Tim Dennehy's Between The Mountains And The Sea. Here are the words to the song in Irish-Gaelic followed by the English translation (thanks to the Irish Page):

An Ciarrí Carúl Nollag
The Kerry Christmas Carol

Verse 1
Scuab an t-urlár agus glan an teallach,
's coimead na grísaigh beo,
Ar eagla go dtiocfhaidh siad anocht,
Agus an domhan 'na chodladh go suan!

Brush the floor and clean the hearth,

And set the fire to keep,
For they might visit us tonight
When all the world's asleep!

Verse 2
Ná múch an coinneal ard bán,
Ach fág é lásta go geal.
Go mbeidh siad cinnte ar aon
go bhfuil fáilte is fiche roimh cách
Sa teach ar an Oiche Nollag naofa seo!

Don't blow the tall white candle out
But leave it burning bright,
So that they'll know they're welcome here
This holy Christmas night!

Verse 3
Léig amach ar an mbord, arán is feoil,
Agus braonín bainne don leanbh.
Agus beidh beannacht ar an dtine
Agus ar an té a bhruith an t-arán
Agus ar an lamh a dhéin an t-obair dian.

Leave out the bread and meat for them,
And sweet milk for the Child,
And they will bless the fire, that baked
And, too, the hands that toiled.

Verse 4
Beidh Naomh Iósaef túirseach,
Tar éis an turas fada.
Agus aghaidh Mhuire fann, bánghnéitheach
Agus beidh néal codlata aca.
Sar a n-imthígheann siad arís.

For Joseph will be travel-tired,
And Mary pale and wan,
And they can sleep a little while
Before they journey on.

Verse 5
Beidh túirse na mbóthar fada ortha
Agus seans aca a scíth a ligint,
Ó's iomai an míle fada uaigneach
Atá roimh an dtriur aca
Uaidh seo go dtí Beithil.

They will be weary of the roads,
And rest will comfort them,
For it must be many a lonely mile
From here to Bethlehem.

Verse 6
Ó is fada an bóthar 'tá le taisteal aca,
Agus é idir garbh is mín
Agus Cnoch Chalvaire mar ceann scríbe aca,
Agus chroise adhmad indan.

O long the road they have to go,
The bad mile with the good,
Till the journey ends on Calvary
Beneath a cross of wood.

Verse 7
Ná cur ar an ndoras ach an laiste anocht!
Agus coimead na gríosaigh beó -
Agus guí go mbeidh siad fén ar ndíon anocht
Agus an domhan 'na chodladh go suan.

Leave the door upon the latch,
And set the fire to keep,
And pray they'll rest with us tonight
When all the world's asleep.

Another favorite Irish carol is Once In Royal David's City written in 1848 by Cecil Frances Humphreys Alexander. You can find an audio version of it at this page. Here are the words:

Once in Royal David's City

Once in royal David's city
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her baby
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little child.

He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall;
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Savior Holy.

And through all His wondrous childhood
He would honor and obey,
Love and watch the lowly Maiden,
In whose gentle arms He lay:
Christian children all must be
Mild, obedient, good as He.

Jesus is our childhood's pattern;
Day by day, like us He grew;
He was little, weak and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us He knew;
And He feeleth for our sadness,
And He shareth in our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love;
For that Child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in heaven above,
And He leads His children on
To the place where He is gone.

Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see Him; but in heaven,
Set at God's right hand on high;
Where like stars His children crowned
All in white shall wait around.

For more on Irish Christmas carols read Bridget Haggerty's An Irish Christmas - Ding Dong, Merrily on High...

You might also enjoy these Gaelic versions of popular Christmas carols (including Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer) courtesy of Vivian and Jack Hennessey.

This article is part of a series written in celebration of the Advent and Christmas seasons. It will be included as part of the GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2009 Day 21: Christmas Music. Make a visit to Thomas MacEntee's GeneaBloggers website for some additional inspiration to get yourself in the holiday spirit!

The article originally appeared here at Small-leaved Shamrock and was included in Thomas MacEntee's Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2007. In the mood for more Christmas carols? Check out footnote Maven's "heavenly host" at A Choir of GeneaAngels. The angel to footnote Maven's right in the center of the choir is standing in for me.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

St. Clair, PA and a Merry Christmas to all! (Advent Calendar: Religious Services)

Historian Anthony F.C. Wallace has provided a wonderful gift for a family historian researching the past in a small 19th-century Pennsylvania coal town: he spent years researching and writing about the town of St. Clair, its industries and its people. The result is his book St. Clair: A Nineteenth-Century Coal Town's Experience With a Disaster-Prone Industry.

The book provides an amazing and thorough glimpse into the world of the people of Schuylkill County, its coal mines and the big business that controlled them, and a slew of other aspects of life in the anthracite region of Pennsylvania in the 19th-century.

This region provided hope for many new immigrants, people of varying ethnic backgrounds and religions, who looked to the coal industry in Schuylkill County for their living and their future. Irish, Welsh, English, German, and people of other ethnicities. Catholics and Protestants. All came to live their lives within the world of the coal mines and the industries that sprung up around them.

But as Wallace indicates in his book, "The churches...were supposed in Christian doctrine to be places where all social classes mingled in common devotion, but they were also bastions of ethnicity." I found interesting, however, his description of times when the ethnic and religious barriers came down for a time. "There were... occasions when some blending of congregations occurred. The most regular of these was at Christmastime, when all of St. Clair was invited on Christmas evening to attend the annual concert organized by the Sunday School at the Methodist Episcopal church." According to Wallace, "Attending services at another denomination's place of worship was a common Christmas practice in some other parts of Pennsylvania as well, permitting even Catholics and Protestants some admission of their mutual Christianity."

Knowing that this age and place was one where Irish Catholics had their own church and German Catholics had another (with similar situations for the Protestants), this is a nice bit of history to encounter.

Wishing a wonderful Christmas season to all of you, no matter what ethnic or religious background is yours. Merry Christmas to all!

This article is part of a series written in celebration of the Advent and Christmas seasons. It will be included as part of the GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2009 Day 20: Religious Services. Make a visit to Thomas MacEntee's GeneaBloggers website for some additional inspiration to get yourself in the holiday spirit!

The article originally appeared here at Small-leaved Shamrock and was included in Thomas MacEntee's Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2007.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Nollaig Shona dhíbh! (Advent Calendar: Grab Bag)

With Christmas just a week or so away there is still time to learn how to offer Christmas greetings in Gaelic.

Unlike Christmas shopping, it doesn't cost much to spread the kind of Christmas cheer that a "Nollaig Shona dhíbh!" can bring to your friends and family. And if they don't understand you at first, wishing them Christmas greetings in Gaelic can be the start of some good conversation on the topic of Irish heritage and the holiday season.
Here's a little lesson in Gaelic greetings for you (with generous thanks to the Irish Culture & Customs webpage Bunús na Gaeilge - Basic Irish Language):

Christmas is Nollaig, pronounced "null-ahg".

If you want to wish a happy Christmas to another person, you can say: Nollaig Shona dhuit, pronounced "null-ig hun-ah gwich".

A similar Christmas greeting to more than one person would be: Nollaig Shona dhíbh, pronounced "null-ig hun-ah yeev".

If (surprise of surprises!) someone wishes you Nollaig Shona dhuit, an appropriate way to say, "And to you..." would be: Go mba hé duit, pronounced, "guh mah hay gwich".

Bhfuil an siopadóireacht le h-aghaidh bronnantanais na Nollaig críochnaithe agat go fóill? (That was "Have you finished all your shopping for Christmas presents yet?" pronounced "Will shup-ah-dhoh-ir-ukth leh heye brun-than-ish nah null-ig cree-ukh-knee-heh ah-guth guh foh-il?") If not, the time is now.

If you have finished all your shopping and perhaps other Christmas preparations, then you might want to take some time to work on your Gaelic. Here are a few good resources to get you started:
When Christmas day is over and all the gifts have been unwrapped, ná déan dearmaid litreacha buíochais a scríobh as bhfúir mbrontannais. (That's Gaelic for: "Don't forget to write thank-you letters for your presents" pronounced "naw djayn djar-muidh lith-ree-uckha bwee-khish ah shcreev ahs woo-ir mrun-thahn-ish".) If your Gaelic studies have been successful, maybe you can throw in some new words and phrases in Irish Gaelic in each thank-you note.

Who knows, maybe it will increase your chances of seeing a little more luck of the Irish in the new year ahead.

Don't forget to check the Irish Culture & Customs webpage for a nice lexicon of Irish Gaelic holiday words and greetings.

Image courtesy of O'Brien's Irish Cottage.

This article is part of a series written in celebration of the Advent and Christmas seasons. It will be included as part of the GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2009 Day 17: Grab Bag. Make a visit to Thomas MacEntee's GeneaBloggers website for some additional inspiration to get yourself in the holiday spirit!

The article originally appeared here at Small-leaved Shamrock and was included in Thomas MacEntee's Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2007.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Poor man's holiday goodies (Advent Calendar: Fruitcake)

I don't know too much about the holiday feasts that were held by my Irish Pennsylvania side of the family. They had come early from Ireland to America (pre-famine) around 1820. I have always wondered just how many of their Irish traditions they clung to after so many years.

One family member who spent many Thanksgiving dinners with the Cowheys in Mount Carbon as a child has fond memories about those holidays. I asked her what types of foods she remembered, wondering whether or not they served traditional Irish fare or food with a more Pennsylvania flavor. Her answer: "Depression-era food".

Makes sense. The family had lived through tough times. Money was tight and the Cowhey family always had many, many mouths to feed. The most memorable items on the menu were two recipes I had never heard of: Poor Man's Fruitcake and Tomato Soup Cake.

Poor Man's Fruitcake lives up to its name: made with fruit but not so expensive as regular fruitcake. There's a nice recipe and description of it courtesy of Sally Jameson and her Pennsylvania grandmother on this Southern Maryland webpage. (Scroll down to the 5th recipe.)

Tomato Soup Cake may sound strange, but according to Food Network chef Emeril Lagasse, it is a favorite of spice cake lovers. See his 3-generation-old recipe for Tomato Soup Cake.

Sometimes it is the simplest things that bring the most pleasure, especially during the Christmas season. But who would have thought it would be a can of tomato soup for dessert?

This article is part of a series written in celebration of the Advent and Christmas seasons. It will be included as part of the GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2009 Day 14: Fruitcake. Make a visit to Thomas MacEntee's GeneaBloggers website for some additional inspiration to get yourself in the holiday spirit!

The article originally appeared here at Small-leaved Shamrock and was included in Thomas MacEntee's Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2007.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas greetings circa 1870 (Advent Calendar: Grab Bag)


Click on the article to the left to step back in time to Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania during the holiday season in the year 1870.

Published on December 22, 1870 in the Shenandoah Evening Herald, the article is a nostalgic look back into Christmas of yesteryear. It also provides an eye-opening realization that some things haven't changed

The editors of the paper wish their readers "...a right merry Christmas unalloyed by the troubles and cares of every day life...". They mention that, "Unfortunately, in too many instances Christmas is but made a season of jollity and festivity, without a thought of the occasion that originated its observance. Properly it is a time of great joy, but the event that it commemorates should not be forgotten in its celebration."
What would the Shenandoah Evening Herald's editors think of our world and its Christmas celebrations today?

The vintage postcard image above (circa early 1900's) is courtesy of twogatos.com. Visit the website to view more beautiful postcards.

This article is part of a series written in celebration of the Advent and Christmas seasons. It will be included as part of the GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2009 Day 9: Grab Bag. Make a visit to Thomas MacEntee's GeneaBloggers website for some additional inspiration to get yourself in the holiday spirit!

The article originally appeared here at Small-leaved Shamrock and was included in Thomas MacEntee's Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2007.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

"We put our shoes on the hearth, hoping St. Nicholas would come" (Advent Calendar: Santa Claus)

Many children around the world for many generations looked forward to December 6 with great anticipation. That was the day they expected a generous visitor to their homes. It wasn't Christmas Eve that he would arrive, but a few weeks earlier - on his very own feast day: the feast of Saint Nicholas.

You can find a charming story about the Saint Nicholas day memories of one little girl (now all grown up) at An Irish Christmas - Waiting for St. Nicholas. Bridget Haggerty tells us how Saint Nicholas eve was the day that began the fun and festivities of the holiday season: "when we put our shoes on the hearth, hoping St. Nicholas would come."

She tells of her mother's annual tradition of telling her children about the story of Saint Nicholas and his good deeds. The next morning it was a dash from the bed to the fireplace to discover what their shoes might be filled with.

If you're reading this on December 5, tonight's the night. Maybe you should polish your shoes and set them out. You never know what goodies they might be filled with in the morning. If Saint Nicholas does rounds in your neighborhood, that is.

If not, as the Irish say, "May yours be the first house in the parish to welcome St. Nicholas.”

Irish Father Christmas image courtesy of All Posters.

This article is part of a series written in celebration of the Advent and Christmas seasons. It will be included as part of the GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2009 Day 6: Santa Claus. Make a visit to Thomas MacEntee's GeneaBloggers website for some additional inspiration to get yourself in the holiday spirit!

The article originally appeared here at Small-leaved Shamrock and was included in Thomas MacEntee's Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2007.

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