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Welcome to the Irish Culture & Customs newsletter which is published every week and sent out to nearly 3,000 readers all over the world. You are receiving this newsletter because you signed up for it - God Bless you!
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Greetings and Blessings to all,

Surprise, surprise, we're back already. This is a special issue to help make up for all the weekends we've missed in the past few months and hopefully it will put us back on a regular Saturday or Sunday delivery. In any event, we're focusing on Christmas for this edition before we all get tired of it - especially since the merchants started touting their tinsel, turkey and toys right after Hallowe'en! When we were young, it wasn't officially the Christmas season until the first Sunday of Advent; the feast of St. Nicholas on December 6th was also a benchmark as was the the feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th when it was traditional for the kids to go Christmas shopping with their mother as it was a school holiday.

Anyway, we hope this extra tome finds you all in good health, good spirits and good company. And, if you just signed up for our musings and meanderings, thanks for joining us and please feel free to share our missives with your family and friends.

So, why did the turkey cross the road? To prove he wasn't chicken! Groan....
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SPONSOR
Help us keep your newsletter free. Please visit our good friends at Lollysmith:
Cap off your Christmas shopping gift list with authentic Irish caps from Hanna Hats of Donegal! Just in! See these and many more gifts imported directly from Ireland, including Jewelry and Shamrock Seeds, Connemara Marble, Tin Whistles, Bodhráns, and much more. So, stop by soon. Lollysmith is always open and they also offer Celtic themed gifts from American companies such as Russ Berrie Angel Cheeks, Silver Moon Jewelry, and Dorfman Pacific Hats. And definitely take a look at their genuine Irish Blackthorn and Hazel Walking Sticks! Please click:
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IN THIS ISSUE:
News
From the Mailbag
Special Christmas Links
Quips, quotes, proverbs & toasts
Joke of The Week
Did You Know
The Week That Was & The Week that Will be, God Willing
Events
Leave 'Em Laughing
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NEWS:
GENERAL
Turkey...with All the Trimmings:
This article appeared in one of the irish newspapers - can't remember which one though!

Most Irish people will sit down to dinner this Christmas and tuck into what they imagine is a traditional dinner. But exactly how traditional is our seasonal fare?

We Irish generally favour turkey for our Christmas dinner. It's reckoned more than 2 million of these birds lay down their lives during the festive season in Ireland. But the turkey is a relative newcomer to Christmas.

It only started to make an appearance on British tables from the late 17th century and by the 18th century wealthy Irish families were enjoying the new delicacy, slowly spreading to the lower classes.

Before the coming of the turkey, venison, rabbit, goose and hare were common fare in poor rural areas, while in the city the menu would be more limited.

During the Middle Ages the craic would be noticeably absent from Christmas in Ireland.

Most communities looked up to the local abbey for spiritual guidance and so took their lead from the ways of the monks. And at Christmas the monks would forego all meat and dairy dishes during dinner and skip the supper meal entirely.

No Irish Christmas dinner would be complete without potatoes - roasted, mashed or in croquettes; traditional fare alongside the sprouts and stuffing. But before the 16th century the population of Ireland wouldn't have had the pleasure of potatoes. The potato probably arrived in the country during the last few years of the 16th century from America.

But how many of the older style 'trimmings' are traditional? The short answer is not too many. Potatoes are from America as is cranberry sauce. Sage and onion stuffing is Roman, chestnut stuffing is from central Europe and Brussels sprouts are Belgian. Roast ham is indigenous to Britain and Christmas pudding is German. The coffee nowadays served at the end of an Irish Christmas dinner is a far cry from that which was served until the 1980s.

So that leaves us with the potato crisps. Yes, the evening party nibbles is the only thing we Irish can claim. Flavoured potato crisps are an Irish invention Joe Murphy of Tayto Crisps was the first man in the world to think up the idea of cheese and onion crisps way back in the 1950s.

Joe may have passed away a few years ago but he left us a main stake in Christmas-tide fare. And just the thing to have with the best vegetarian meal available - a couple of pints of Guinness!

RTÉ plays it safe and rolls out the golden oldies for festive viewing
Montrose chiefs just unveiled their latest effort - a stocking-filler of Hollywood glitz and home-produced specials. The swashbuckling 'Pirates of the Caribbean', the Oscar winning 'The Hours' and the cartoon caper 'Ice Age' are among the big guns to be hauled out on Christmas Day.

Major shortage of most-wanted present
Thousands of parents face the prospect of disappointing the kids on Christmas because of a shortage of the Microsoft Xbox 360. Although it was only just launched, savvy moms ands had placed their orders for the much-wanted computer more than a month ago. Just a handful of consoles were available without a pre-order. Retailing at €409 with a hard drive, a small number of products with no hard drive were on sale for €309.99 yesterday and were quickly snapped up. "We might get another small amount in before Christmas and some may be delivered on Christmas Eve," said a spokesman for Smyth's Toys. "The demand has been absolutely huge," he added.

Around the Counties:
Derry: A change of mind leads on to fortune A Derry man who has played the same numbers twice a week in the National Lottery for more than ten years decided to change the numbers last week, and won himself £56,911. John Nixon, a retired oil engineer who lives in Hazelbank, is already planning the best Christmas his family has ever had, using his new-found wealth to buy extra special presents for his wife Pamela, their children, their twenty-two grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Despite a rumour initially doing the rounds of Derry that John had won the jackpot of £9m, he was quite content with his more modest fortune.

Galway: Could you Cope with a swim on Christmas morning?
Cope this week launched its 16th annual Waterside House fundraising Christmas Swim. This year the chilly, charitable, dip will take place on Christmas morning at Blackrock in Salthill at 11am. It is Cope's longest running fundraiser, with all proceeds going to Cope's Waterside House refuge for women and children from Galway county and city who experience domestic violence.

Kerry: Killarney campaigns to to lure back shoppers
Killarney traders reached a crisis point last Christmas as they faced empty shops in what should have been one of the busiest times of the year. But this season, the town looks set to outshine its old rival Tralee. Undoubtedly the big attraction this year will be 'Holiday on Ice' in Tesco's car park on New Street. Other highlights are the Santa's Grotto and the Tree of Giving.

Louth: unconventional arrival in Drogheda for Santa
The jolly old elf arrived in a most unconventional manner last week - by boat up the Boyne. However, it quickly became obvious he was more at home in his sleigh on land or in the air, as his boat crashed and he ended up in the river. Not to worry though; Green Door Lodge proprietor Gavin Collins was on hand to rescue him.

Mayo: Festive lights for Ballinrobe
After a gap of several years, the funding has been found for festive lights. Some eighty local business people; some have given lump sums while others have pledged a monthly amount over the next five years. They are to be formally switched on on by the current Rose of Tralee, Mayo woman Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin.

Sligo: The county's biggest ever Christmas box now on its way to Belarus
Almost 9,000 boxes, in fact, as children have once again captured the true Christmas spirit. The idea behind the unique project is very simple. Children are invited to fill ordinary shoe boxes with seasonal gifts, such as toys, hats, scarves, toiletries, sweets and other goodies, and the gaily decorated boxes are then sent to unfortunate children in Eastern Europe.

Westmeath: The Dunnes' garden this year will be even bigger and better.
It is fitting that Christmas lights on a spectacular scale should be their annual project, because the work done by Jim and Helen Dunne through the magnificent illumination of their garden in Moate also shines a light for so many children to make their dream come true. Helen says "This is the third year we have done this for Share a Dream and last year we helped 25 children from all over the Midlands to make their dreams come true. And the funny thing is that some of their dreams are so easy to bring to life; one boy just wanted to have Spiderman or Batman visit his home. Another had never been in a hotel. Others want to go to Old Trafford and we send as many as we can to Disneyland. Others have been mascots on big match days in Croke Park, or they've met Westlife or their other favourite bands. It's such a wonderful thing to make these children's dreams come true. When you see these children smile and know that you too have helped, it's magic. It's the greatest feeling in the world," says Helen.

Tyrone: Special greetings for Tyrone fans
Club Tyrone has produced a special Christmas card for the county's GAA fans which depicts team captain Brian Dooher asleep on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa. While dreaming of scoring points, Brian's letter to Santa is shown requesting that Peter Canavan and Chris Lawn are persuaded not to retire. The marketing branch of Tyrone GAA will be distributing the cards to shops in Cookstown, Dungannon, Strabane, Omagh, Mullagahmore and Dromore. In addition, each of the five hundred members of Club Tyrone will receive a complimentary set of the cards in plenty of time for the Christmas post.

Wicklow: Big crowd sees 'Tarzan' turn on Christmas lights
Bray people braved the chilly weather to jingle their bells at the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer s the town's new Christmas Lights display was officially turned on. Legendary Bray Wanderers goal scorer, Kieran 'Tarzan' O'Brien did the honours on the day and not only led the countdown but also led the Christmas carolling.
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SPONSOR
Please help keep our newsletter coming to your mailbox - visit our good friends at the Irish Lottery:
There was NO winner of Saturday night's drawing which means Wednesday's jackpot will be approximately €3.75 Million Euro or more!Wouldn't that be nice to have for Christmas? So play now. You don't have to live in Ireland to enter, winnings are tax-free and checks are mailed within 48 hours. Do you have the luck of the Irish? Play the Irish lottery and find out! I Please click here for full details - and best of Irish luck to you!
http://www.irishlotto.net
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FROM THE MAILBAG
Not too many messages so far; we have our "first in" on the riddle and we have just a couple of entries into the writer's quiz. We're not changing that for this issue, so take a look below and see if you can track down our authors.

We continue to receive very positive reports from Helen Dowd on hartson's progress. He is still writing thank you notes to people - cards have come in from all over the world! The nurses tell him that he is one of the popular patients they've ever had. So please keep those cards coming!

Fraser Canyon Hospital
1275 7th Ave.
Hope, British Columbia, Canada
V0X 1L4
NOTE: no room number is necessary, as it is a very small hospital, and they all know who Hart Dowd is!

Jennie from Shetland wants to knit her husband an Aran Isle sweater and wants to use authentic Irish bainin yarn. We took a look on the net and we found a site - in Scotland! Short of actually going to Ireland to buy it, does anyone know of an internet merchant who sells it?

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SPECIAL CHRISTMAS LINKS
Advent Calendar
Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the hot link Advent Calendar on the right. Click on the icons to learn how to make each of the 25 days leading up to Christmas even more meaningful.
http://www.abbeypress.com/abbey/prod/index.asp?Redirect=true&uid=undefined&sku=15032C

Second Sunday of Advent
Jack and Vivian of the Irish Page have sent us links in recognition of the four Sundays before Christmas. Here is the link for the second Sunday - be sure to have your speakers turned on:
http://www.irishpage.com/noel/advent-1.htm

Christmas at St. St. Patrick's Cathedral
Whether going to the Cathedral as a casual visitor or joining them as a member of the congregation for one of the many services that take place during December and January, you are assured of a warm welcome
http://www.stpatrickscathedral.ie/christmas1.htm#Welcome

Christmas in Ireland
This one is for the children to enjoy; Flynn the irish Setter, tells how Christmas was celebrated in Ireland not that long ago:
http://www.nanjay.com/DillyDoodles/Christmas/MerryIreland.htm

Not your usual snow-globe
This one is just too funny. (And thanks to our friend Audrey for sending it in). Shake the globe and watch what happens. Be sure your speakers are turned on:
http://ww12.e-tractions.com/snowglobe/globe.htm

Beautiful photos of Donegal in winter:
http://homepage.eircom.net/~hedgerow1/december.htm

Free mammograms
Do you know of a woman who can't afford a mammogram? Here's how you can help. Go to the Breast Cancer site and click on their free mammogram link; if they get enough clicks , they'll be able to donate at least one free mammogram a day to underprivileged women. It takes just a minute and there's no cost involved:
http://www.thebreastcancersite.com

Last but certainly not least - our on-going gift to AG in California and all friends to animals, please click this link today and everyday. It only takes a second to feed an animal. Thanks!
http://www.theanimalrescuesite.com/cgi-bin/WebObjects/CTDSites.woa

It only takes a second to feed hungry people, too:
http://www.thehungersite.com

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QUIPS, QUOTES, ANECDOTES AND TOASTS

Thoughts of childhood Christmases rekindle a warm glow
As I recall the magic of those days so long ago.
The atmosphere within our home of happy expectation
Of all the joys that lay ahead, so filled me with elation.
Coming up to Christmas, the shopping should be done,
Which meant the then rare pleasure of a journey into town
Where mother went from shop to shop buying Christmas treats
Fruit for the cakes and Christmas 'pud', some lemonade and sweets
Bread and herbs for stuffing, biscuits, chocolate and a 'Sup'
To celebrate the 'Christmas' and cheer the adults up.
Next preparation was confession, which enabled us to go
to receive Our Lord on Christmas morn, with souls as white as snow.
From No Shoes in Summer. Anon. North Cork, 1940s.
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DID YOU KNOW
1. Irish pubs are closed on Christmas day?
2. The ancient Celts believed mistletoe possessed miraculous healing powers and held the soul of the host tree?
3. Victor Herbert, who composed Babes in Toyland, was born in Dublin?

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JOKE OF THE WEEK
A repeat of one we published a couple of years ago - but we think it's welll worth another read:
An old man in Dublin calls his son in New York right before Christmas and says, "Son, I 'm sorry, but I have to tell you that after 45 years of misery, your mother and I are busting up. " "Da, what are you talking about?" the son yells in disbelief. "We can't stand the sight of each other any longer," the father says. "We're sick of each other, and I'm sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Chicago and tell her." Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. "No way they're leaving each other!" she shouts, "I'll take care of this." She calls Dublin immediately and screams at her father, "You are not splitting up. Don't do a single thing until I get there. I'm calling my brother back, and we'll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don't do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?" and hangs up. The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. "Well then," he says, "they're coming home for Christmas and paying their own way!"
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SPONSOR
Help us keep our newsletter coming to your mailbox. Please visit our good friends at the Celtic Attic:
We want to invite our Loyal Customers, Newsletter Readers and Visitors to participate in the First Annual Celtic Attic Gift Basket Friendship Christmas Giveaway. We did this for Thanksgiving and the responses and stories were amazing. Some brought tears to our eyes. So we decided to do this for Christmas as well. All you have to do is Fill out the Free Monthly Giveaway or Gift Basket Giveaway forms and in the Comments Section nominate someone you feel is in need of one our Fantastic Celtic Gift Basket. Please tell us why you feel they deserve this prize. If your entry is chosen, you as the nominator will receive a Free Celtic Cross Pendant and your nominee will receive the Gift Basket. One Grand prize winner for the Gift Basket will be chosen on Christmas Eve by the Celtic Attic Staff. We will also pick 5 Runner Up's and each will receive a $5.00 Gift Card good for any purchase at the Celtic Attic. It never expires and will be mailed out to each runner up. The 5 nominators will also receive a Free Christmas Ornament for their participation. The links to the Free Giveaway sections are below. We hope to hear from as many of you as possible.Help make someone's Holiday Season Grand and send in your Nominees! To see all of the lovely items on offer, please click on the following URLs or cut and paste either one into your browser:
http://www.celticattic.com/main.htm
http://www.celticattic.com/treasures/christmas_all_year_long.htm
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IRISH WRITERS AND BOOKS QUIZ
1. They Put the Flag AFlyin'
2. Islands of Connaught
3. Irish Blood, English Heart, Ilster Fry ===============================================
SPONSOR
Love the aroma of a turf fire? Experience the next best thing with Irish Incense, the peaceful, nostalgic scent that will transport you back in time and place. The perfect gift for Christmas or any other occasion, order now. And when you mention that you heard about Irish incense in the Irish Culture and Customs newsletter, you'll receive an extra pack of incense for FREE (plus your newsletter writers will receive a nice commission which will help keep us going). Please click
http://www.irishincense.com
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THHE WEEK THAT WAS:
1. Article: An Irish Christmas - Waiting for St. Nicholas
http://www.irishcultureandcustoms.com/ACalend/Xmas5th.html
2. Article: An East Cork Christmas
http://www.irishcultureandcustoms.com/ACalend/XmasEastCork.html
3. Article: Oscar Wilde Remembered
http://www.irishcultureandcustoms.com/AWriters/OscarWilde.html
4. Article: Irish Greeting Cards for a Worthy Cause
http://www.irishcultureandcustoms.com/ACalend/XmasCards.html
5. An Advent Memory
http://www.irishcultureandcustoms.com/ACalend/Advent.html
6. The Irish Kitchen: Apple Mincemeat and Nut Strudel
http://www.irishcultureandcustoms.com/2Kitch/XmasDesserts2.html
7. Basic Irish: Written Communication
http://www.irishcultureandcustoms.com/3Focloir/1Home.html
8. Kids' Ireland: The Young King
http://www.irishcultureandcustoms.com/1Kids/1Home.html
9. Circle of Prayer: Our seventh Novena nds on December 7th and our 8th in the series begins in December 9th. It's that time of year in the nothern hemisphere when slippery roads can cause skids and crashes, and ice-covered steps or pavements can cause even the most cautious among us to take a tumble. This week, we ask you to pray or meditate for Russ' sister Renee who just totalled her car, and for our good friend Jane who slipped on her back steps when she went oput to feed the birds; to add insult to injury, the squirrels stole the food! We also heard from Owen at Lollysmith. Please pray for his wife Candy. Also, Joe McTiernan that his test results will be good news! Others we ask you to remember are Hartson, Mally Keelan's family, and for our military personnel all over the world, especially those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Whatever your spiritual leanings, please visit our Novena page:
http://www.irishcultureandcustoms.com/Blessings/CirclePrayer.html

10. Trivia Contest. The new contest for December is posted and we also have a winner for November. They have been notified but we haven't heard back yet. Meanwhile, take a look at the page - and the prizes - all very nice choices. All entries must be in by midnight December 31st, whichever time zone you're in:
http://www.irishcultureandcustoms.com/TriviaContest.html

WHAT WILL BE, GOD WILLING
New articles? Perhaps. We've promised so many that haven't happened - especially since Bridget's major health setback last year: Cork, the Irish Horse, Wakes and Funerals. They will happen, but we don't know when. In the meantime, we fall back on articles already written. We know you will understand. As always, we've posted a new blessing, and we'll be updating the news and history every day. Since we love surprises, please visit every day - you never know when the writers muse may move Bridget to writing something new - but we definitely need Russ to proof-read!

So that's the long and the short of it until we send out our regular edition this coming weekend. Until then,
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.

And, as they say in Ireland, mind yourself!

Slan agus beannacht
Bridget & Russ
http://www.irishcultureandcustoms.com
Get down on your knees and thank God you're still on your feet
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WHEN A LOT OF PEOPLE GIVE A LITTLE, A LITTLE BECOMES A LOT
This past week, we were delighted to receive a generous donation from Eileen & Joe McTiernan. Go raibh maith agat!
If you like our newsletter and the website, please help support our efforts and send whatever you can to Bridget or Russ Haggerty, 5670 Meryton Place, Cincinnati OH 45224. Or you can send a donation via PayPal. The URL is:
http://www.paypal.com
and our email address is this one:
bhaggerty@irishcultureandcustoms.com
Many thanks in advance for your kindness
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EVENTS

Carnegie Hall, New York City - December 8
The Irish Sopranos in The Magic of Christmas. Featuring the beautiful voices of Wendy Dwyer, Kay Lynch and Deidre Masterson Also on the bill are Ciaran Sheehan, Gay Willis, Marble Community Gospel Choir, the Festival Youth Chorus, New York Festival Orchestra, the Garden State Children Dance Company and the Gaelic Harpists. For tickets contact the CarnegieCharge at 212 247 7800. For Group tickets contact 914- For details, contact Anita Daly, Daly Communications, 212-772-0852 . Tell her Bridget said hello!

Studio City, CA - December 2-December 23
Christmas O'Carol Adapted by Dan Conroy and Michael Sean McGuinness from Dickens' Christmas Carol.The Celtic Arts Center. For complete details, please click
http://www.celticartscenter.com

Atlanta, Georgia - Saturday, December 17 and Sunday, December 18
Celtic Christmas Concert with James Flannery, director and host. One of Atlanta's most popular holiday traditions celebrates Christmas with the mystical beauty and heartfelt warmth of Celtic and Appalachian music, dance, poetry, song, and story. This year's concert features the talents of two Grammy Award-winning artists: Celtic and bluegrass banjo virtuoso Alison Brown and Bill Whelan, composer of Riverdance. For more details, please click
http://arts.emory.edu/tickets/index.html



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LEAVE 'EM LAUGHING

This is edited and adapted from a poem sent in by our good friend Eileen:

'Twas the night after Christmas , but I just couldn't sleep
I tried counting backwards, I tried counting sheep
Turkey leftovers beckoned - the dark meat and white
But I fought the temptation with all of my might.
Tossing and turning with anticipation
The thought of the food became infatuation.
So, I raced to the kitchen, flung open the door
And gazed at the fridge, full of goodies galore.
I gobbled up turkey and chestnut stuffing
buttered potatoes and brandied plum pudding
I felt myself swelling so plump and so round,
'Til all of a sudden, I rose off the ground.
I crashed through the ceiling and rose to the sky
With a mouthful of pudding and a handful of pie
But, I managed to yell as I soared past the trees
Happy eating to all - Pass the cranberries, please.