Welcome to the Irish Culture & Customs newsletter which is published every fortnight or so and sent out to over 4200 readers all over the world. You are receiving this newsletter because you signed up for it - God Bless you! If you'd like to read past issues, they are archived at:
If, for any reason, you wish to unsubscribe, instructions are at the very end - but we do hope you'll stay with us. And if you need to update your info' or change your email address, you can do that at the end, too.

Greetings and Blessings to all,

So here we are then - the Sunday before Christmas. Are you full of mirth and merriment or leaning more towards mayhem and murder? Whatever your mood, might we suggest making yourself a nice cuppa tea (or something a wee bit stronger )and take a few minutes to sit back, relax and indulge in a bit of Irish cheer - ours and whatever it is you're having.

Since last we wrote, the big move to the little house continued and we were presentable enough to invite the usual relatives and friends over for our annual Black Swap Ploughman's Lunch. For those of you who may be new to this curiously named event, it's based on the old Irish custom of trading something you don't want for something the other fella doesn't want. In past years, we've run the gamut from a Stretch Armstrong doll dressed in drag to a cookie/biscuit jar so ugly, the recipient was given permission to smash it to smithereens on the back patio.

This year's "gifts" were just as worthy of immediate demolition. Imagine a bust of a French poodle covered oh so twee in tiny sea shells. Or how about a pair of matching wall hangings created of horribly mismatched bits of yarn? Or an 8-track tape featuring the best of Van Cliburn? Or the egg separator shaped like a person's head where the white comes out of the nose? We won't go on. Suffice to say, all in attendance out-did themselves!

In the meantime, we hope this pre-Christmas edition finds you and yours as happy as the goose who wasn't plucked from the flock for the big dinner! And if you're a new subscriber, many thanks for joining us. We hope you enjoy our musings and meanderings; if so, please feel free to pass them along to your family and friends.

Enough of the blather - on with the update:

Please help us keep your newsletter coming - visit our good friends at Lollysmith:
Happy Christmas and our very best in the new year from all of us at Lollysmith. We'd like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who shopped with us in 2007 and hope you'll be back again in 2008. On the heels of the holidays sees us getting ready for the next big event - St. Patrick's Day! And you can be certain we'll have everything you need to do it up right - from Guinness gear, authentic walking sticks, hats, caps and more! Come explore:
From the mailbag
Quips, Quotes, Proverbs & Toasts
A Bit of the Wit
Joke of The Week
Did You Know
Know Your Writers
The week That Is
Leave 'em Laughing
What follows are news clips from around the counties and the world. Links for more news stories can be found on our web site here
And more county news can be found here:

Antrim: UK award for Belfast photographer
Ciaran O'Neill, a photographer with studios in both Belfast and Lurgan has been named as the overall 2007 UK Photographer of the Year. Ciaran was also declared the winner of the fashion category. In addition, his nephew Simon, who is a co-owner of the business, was among the finalists in the competition, so it looks as though the O'Neill name will continue to shine in the world of photography.

Cavan: Shercock water wins major award
The water bottled by a Cavan company has won two silver medals at a British awards ceremony. Celtic Pure Spring Water, bottled by Padraig and Pauline McEneaney, won the Awards for Excellence at the British Bottlers Institute Annual Awards which took place in London last week. The water used by the company is sourced from a natural spring well in Corcreagh, two miles from Shercock, and was chosen for the medals following a blind tasting.

Clare: Doolin's new pier is a step closer
If accepted, a proposal will see a new pier constructed close to the existing pier and, according to Minister of State Tony Killeen, the new pier will facilitate ferry operators, fishermen and the local search and rescue unit with the launching of their boats.

Cork: Walk of Fame for Glanmire Road
The footpath at the site of the former Arcadia Ballroom on Lower Glanmire Road in Cork is to be adorned with stars in the manner of those on Hollywood Boulevard. The Walk of Fame will honour some twenty showbands including the Capitol, the Miami, the Dixies and Joe Dolan and the Drifters. The star-shaped plaques, which will mark the years when the Arcadia Ballroom attracted thousands of dancers, will be officially unveiled by former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, himself the owner of a chain of ballrooms during a period from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s.

Donegal: Burt chapel makes A-list
Mark Irving's book, "1,001 Buildings You Must See Before You Die", includes among its number St Aengus' Church in Burt. Designed by Liam McCormick, the church design is based on the nearby Bronze Age ringfort Grianán an Aileach and was built forty years ago. The distinctive roof spiral is covered with copper, while light enters through a glass section of the dome, and the paths around the church are composed of cobbles salvaged from the docks in Derry.

Down: Major award for Maghera pub
The Maghera Inn near Castlewellan has been named as the Northern Ireland Pub of the Year. It has been owned for the last nine years by Matthew Davey, who set about doubling the size of the premises. Taking second and third place were respectively the Duke of York in Belfast and the Courthouse in Lurgan.

Dublin: A new floating restaurant for Dublin
The MV Cill Airne, last used as a training vessel at the Maritime College, has just been granted a seven-day licence and has become a floating restaurant based at the North Wall, close to the National Conference Centre. Owned by Larry Crowe, Brian Flannery and Robin Payne, the vessel will house two restaurants, the Blue River Bistro and, below decks, Quay 16.

Fermanagh: Efforts made to hand down skills
With the realisation that a decreasing number of people have the skill of strawmaking for the purpose of making Mummers' costumes, three open days in the craft are being held at the Aughakillymaude Mummers Centre. Two craftsmen from the Macken area, Patrick Murphy and Jimmy Magee, will be leading the workshops, with help from Dessie Reilly of the Mummers who was at the conference of the Strawcraft Guild in Britain recently.

Kilkenny: Writer and artist collaborate on Kilkenny book
Local writer Gerry Moran and artist Ann Phelan, who has lived in the city for the past twenty years, have combined their talents to produce a history of the city and county which was launched recently at Rothe House in Kilkenny city. "Kilkenny City and County" takes in a number of towns and villages including Graiguenamanagh, Thomastown, Dunmore, Calland and Urlingford, the narrative on each being complemented by the artist's watercolours. In addition to a general history of the area, Gerry includes a number of stories including the Kilkenny witch and the Ladies of Llangollen.

Laois: Gold for Mountrath couple
A presentation was made to a couple from Mountrath during a recent Mass at St Fintan's Church. Patsy and Betty O'Rourke were presented with gold medals and certificates to mark their fifty-year membership of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association. Patsy and Betty were accompanied to the Mass and presentation by their son and daughter, Declan and Patricia, and following the Mass the congregation gathered in St Fintan's Hall for refreshments. This was the culmination of a weekend of the association's activities, which included a dinner dance in the Hazel Hotel in Monasterevin.

Monaghan: Castleblayney man is new GAA chief
Pauric Duffy, the son of the late Mick and Nora Duffy from Bree, Castleblayney, has been appointed as the new Director General of the GAA. Now living in Scotstown with his wife Vera, Pauric is a past pupil of the old national school in Castleblayney. His sports administration career began with his appointment as vice-secretary of the Castleblayney Faughs Club while he was still in his teens. On his appointment to the full-time position of Player Welfare Officer last year he resigned from the principalship of St McCartan's College in Monaghan.

Offaly: Rhode man is Offaly Rover
The title of the 2007 Offaly Rover has gone to Oisín Scally, who was representing Killeen's pub in Rhode in the final of the competition, held in the Tullamore Court Hotel. The singer and dancer was second onto the stage and his reception was helped by the number of his supporters in the audience. Judging the contest were chairman Michael Duignan, Micky Joe Harte, Evan Ní Chuillean and two local "ladies", Johnny Butterfield and Jimmy Corrigan. While all the entrants received a bag of goodies, Oisín was also presented with a €1,000 travel voucher.

Sligo: Walk on threatened route by conservation group
A walk was organised recently to follow the traditional Short Strand route to Coney Island, while those driving took the Long Strand route from Scarden, with both groups meeting for a rally on the island. The group members believe that the proposal to extend the runway at Sligo Airport will threaten the traditional route to the island via Dorrin's Strand. The walk around the peninsula, from Strandhill to Killaspugbrone, along the shore to the Old Airport Road and back to the village would be rendered inaccessible with the construction of the drainage channel and a stone platform, according to the protestors.

Waterford: Ancient chalice goes on display
A chalice dating from the late sixteenth century, believed to be one of the oldest surviving in the country, has gone on display at Waterford Museum of Treasures as part of the exhibition on the life and times of Father Luke Wadding OFM. The silver Lucer Chalice was made for the Franciscan Father John Lucer and carries the date 1595; it was rediscovered at the end of the nineteenth century at the bottom of a holy well in Co. Carlow. Also featuring in the museum are a chalice and a set of vestments which belonged to historian and clergyman Geoffrey Keating, as well as the death mask and a portrait of Luke Wadding.

Wexford: Gold for Patrick the Plasterer
Patrick Doran from Carrigeen in Ferns, who was part of a twenty-six person team representing Ireland at the World Skills Competition in Japan, has brought home a gold medal in Plastering. He was congratulated by Kieran Miller, managing director of major sponsors Gypsum Industries, who also sponsor the plastering category of the competition. Fifteen other team members were also awarded medals; they arrived back in Dublin Airport on Sunday and Patrick's family ensured that his achievement was recognised, with a homecoming celebration at Kelly's in The Harrow, organised by his brother Seán.

Wicklow: Trees before cars in Arklow
A sapling rowan tree, one of a number planted in Rory O'Connor Place in Arklow when mature trees were felled for roadworks to take place, was itself threatened with felling to make way for car parking spaces, but now it is to be left in place. The council members had decided to remove the tree to create a parking space outside one of the houses, but a petition from local residents led them to reverse the decision. It was further suggested that the tree be moved a few feet to facilitate parking, but this was also outvoted and now the protective bollards are to be moved instead.

SPONSOR: Please help us keep our newsletter coming - visit our friends at the Celtic Attic:
Happy Christmas and a Delightful New Year to all our Customers and Friends from your devoted staff at the Celtic Attic... We will be closed Dec. 25th and Dec. 26th for Christmas and Inventory respectively... Starting December 27th to January 1st, 2008 we are having a HUGE STOREWIDE SALE.  We are completely revamping our inventory in January... So we are getting rid of hundreds of products and adding new items.  Sales pages are jammed packed and all items are 50% the listed price.  In addition, there is FREE Shipping on orders over $25.00 that have at least 1 sales item.  Receive Free Shipping on all orders over $100 without any Sales item.  FREE GIFT with each and every order and a FREE COPY of the CELTIC ATTIC COOKBOOK with each order!  So stock up for next Christmas or Shop early for St. Patrick's Day! Order on line or by phone - and tell them Bridget & Russ said hello!
Order by phone: Tel: 360-765-0186
Order on line:


Just had to write and tell you I enjoyed your Irish Christmas- Then & Now article. I grew up listening to my Mom's collection of Irish records and in particular a china 78 lp of the McNulty Family and the Little Irish Show Boat, who I believe were quite popular here in the States I guess in the 30's and 40's. My Mother told me of how how she saw them in the early 40's as a child at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn, NY. Their show told of their families emmigration to the US on a ship which they dubbed "The Little Irish Show Boat" and they made a show out of it. The show started with "All ashore who's goin ashore, were about to take a trip on the Little Irish Show Boat" One of the songs that the beautiful white haired Ma McNulty played on her accordian and sang as part of the show was Miss Fogarty's Christmas Cake. This was the best and funniest song I thought! It is still my favorite and it's the first Christmas song of the season played in my house each season. I learned this song by heart as a kid and even remember on the last day of school before the Christmas recess when we had our class parties, the Nuns would let us volunteer to lead the class in Christmas songs. I always got up and sang this song,  first because no one else knew it and I would leave the class laughing, which left me at 10 personally fulfilled!!
 Anyway, thanks for the memory. And by the way, I have begun singing this song to my 2 year old granddaughter, who doesn't understand the point of it yet. But I am sure she one day will. Since she is my name sake, hopefully she will share my odd sense of humor!!
Ellen McCarry Hopps from Long Island, NY
ED. NOTE: Thanks, Ellen. And if any of our readers would like to read the article Ellen is referring to, here's the URL:

Paul Burnett needs a translation into Irish:
I have been trying to find a proper way to write:
 Men fight for two reasons, to live and to exist.
have recieved two very different ways to do this, so if you could I am looking for a third party input to decide which way to write. I am going to hang this up in my boxing gym and would hate to have it mispelled. Thanks in advance if you can help.

Desteni is thinking of migrating to Ireland and she has a question about the cost of living:
We live in Germany right now ( my husband is a US soldier) do you know if it is comparable to here?

Ask Santa
A wonderful interactive site that will keep the children and kids at heart occupied for a long while. This one was sent to us by several readers - thank you!

A Christmas Celtic Sojourn
Brian O'Donovan of WGBH Radio in Boston discusses what he describes as 'the pure drop' - Christmas music performed by the best musicians and singers from Ireland and other Celtic nations
ED. NOTE: We went looking and were delighted to discover that you can get the video on amazon. Be sure to copy the entire URL into your browser:

Ashland University Interactive Card
Several readers brought what is becoming a Christmas e-card classic to our attention once again. If your frazzled nerves need soothing, this should do it:
ED. NOTE: Sometimes it's slow to load - be patient; it's worth the wait.

The irish Page
The latest offering from Jack & Vivian is Enya and her beautiful rendition of Silent Night in Irish.
Click here: 

Red Cross to Deliver Holiday Cards to Wounded
With help from Pitney Bowes Government Solutions, and the support of the Defense Department and Walter Reed Army Medical Center here, the American Red Cross will collect, review and distribute holiday greeting cards to wounded military personnel. Find out how you can send a card here:

Fiddle Tree
One of our all-time favorite greetings - and joy, oh joy, it's still available:

Is there a Santa Claus?
Our friend Audrey sent us this link to a lovely story we've read before, but it's well worth reading again.

Happy Holidays? Merry Tossmass!
If you are as fed up as we are over retailers studiously avoiding the word Christmas, you'll appreciate this video as much as we did! With thanks to our dear friend GA for sending it in:

Free Mammograms
Many women can't afford the test, but here's how you can help: Go to the Breast Cancer site and click on their free mammogram link; if the site gets 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:

Free Pet Food!
Last but certainly not least - our ongoing 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!

Free People Food!
It only takes a second to feed hungry people, too:
Life goes by as if it had wings, and every Christmas puts another year on your shoulder. Irish saying
'Téann an saol thart mar bheadh eiteoga air agus cuireann gach aon Nollaig
bliain eile ar do ghualainn.'
A Dubliner gets on a bus and asks the driver how long the trip is between Limerick to Cork. "About 2 hours," says the driver. "Okay," says the Dubliner "then how long is the trip between Cork to Limerick?" The irate driver says "It's still about 2 hours, boyo. Why'd ye think there'd be a difference?" "Well," says the Dubliner , "It's only a  week between Christmas and New Year's, but it's a helluva long time  between New Year's to Christmas!"
Another oldie but goodie. Sometimes you just can't improve on what's already the best Christmas joke we've ever heard:

The teacher asked each of her students how they celebrated Christmas. She calls first on young Patrick O'Flaherty. "Tell me, Patrick, what do you do at Christmas time? Patrick addresses the class: "Me and me twelve brothers and sisters go to midnight Mass and we sing carols. Then we come home very late and we hang up our pillowcases at the foot of the bed. Then we go to bed and wait for Father Christmas to come with all our toys." "Very nice, Patrick," the teacher says. "Now, Billy Murphy, what do you do at Christmas?" "Me and my sister go to church with Mum and Dad, and we also sing carols. When we get home, we put biscuits and milk by the chimney and hang up our stockings. We hardly sleep waiting for Santa Claus to bring our presents." "That's also very nice, Billy," she said. Realizing that there was a Jewish boy in the class and not wanting to leave him out of the discussion, she asked him the same question. "Now, Isaac, what do you do at Christmas?" "Well, we also sing carols," Isaac responds. Surprised, the teacher questions further. "Tell us what you sing." "Well, it's the same thing every year. Dad comes home from the office. We all pile into the Rolls Royce and drive to his toy factory. When we get inside, we look at all the empty shelves and sing, 'What a friend we have in Jesus.' Then we all go to the Bahamas."
1. According to old Irish folklore, to have good health in the coming year, you should eat an apple on Christmas Eve?
2. You should never launder a Christmas gift before giving it to the recipient? It washes out the luck?
3. It is unlucky to wear a ragged garment on Christmas Day? A hole meant a leak in the purse. However, if clothing is torn on the big day, it should not be sewn; it should be pinned together.
SPONSOR: Please help us keep the newsletter coming - visit our good friends at the Irish Lotto.
In operation since 1988 , it's one of the oldest online lottery sites in the world. With subscribers in 89 countries it is also among the most reliable. Jackpots are never lower than US$1,500,000 and are frequently worth in excess of US$5,000,000 Here's the best part - you don't have to live in Ireland to play and all winnings are Tax Free!

Latest results: There was just one winner of Saturday night's Lotto jackpot, which was worth a massive €13.2m. It was the second largest Lotto jackpot ever, having rolled over for 11 draws. The winning ticket was bought at the News n' Choose newsagents on the main street in Loughrea, Co. Galway. Was it you? It's' always been our fantasy that one of our readers will win; but, as they say in Ireland, you can't win it if you're not in it. To buy a ticket for next Wednesday's drawing, please click
To begin with, the answers to our last quiz:

1. Christmas Wonder: From Ireland for Children by Sean C. O'Leary
2. An Irish Country Christmas by Alice Taylor
3. Irish Christmas Stories by David Marcus

A round of pints and applause to our latest literary sleuths:

Helen Dowd
These are some of my favorite links. I hope you enjoy them as I have.

Hartson didn't nominate a site this time around, but were sure he wouldn't mind if his lovely wife received a second mention!

Déirdre McKiernan Hetzler
 "Glorious Ireland": 22 May - 3 June, 2008: view itinerary at

Rita Roche, Md
I don't have a favourite Irish site - I love everything Irish!

Mystery Reader who loves Alice Taylor
We had a computer glitch and lost your email. Please write again and we'll give you another listing. Somehow, we managed to save your site nomination:

Want to see your name and favorite web site in our next newsletter?
Who wrote:
1. Follow Me Down to Dublin
2. Vanishing Ireland
3. The Laughter of Mothers
First off, the answer to our last Silly Season Poser
Q. What do you get if you cross Father Christmas with a detective ?
A. Santa Clues!
As always, we had a slew of answers, but first in was HD of BC. Well done!

Honorable mentions go to the reader who sent in:
Roof Sleuth. Sorry - we lost your email address. Please write to us so we can mention you next time!
And to Thomas Moran sent us Nick the Dick (In case anyone thinks we're being naughty with our language, dick is a legitimate eupemism for detective!

And now for another Silly Season puzzler:
What kind of candle burns longer - a red candle or a green candle?
1. Article: An Irish Christmas - The Day Before
2. Article: Time at this Point of the Year
3. Article: Many Years Ago
4. Article: Rowing to Christmas Mass
5. Article: Burying the Baby Jesus
6. Article: Whitewashed Walls
7. Article: An East Cork Christmas
8. Article: Irish Superstitions for the Christmas Season
9. Irish Kitchen: Food for the Feast
10. Basic irish: Season's Greetings in Gaeilge
11. Kids' Ireland: Midnight Visitors

12. Circle of prayer - The ninth Novena in this cycle began on December 18 and continues through December 25. We will begin a brand new cycle on St. Stephen's Day, December 26. Since last we wrote, we've had an urgent prayer request for baby Isabella who is just 11 months old and has just been diagnosed with a vurulent form of leukemia as well as pneumonia; the prognosis is not encouraging, but we have experienced first-hand the miracles that can happen when we come together and ask for divine intervention. Whatever your spiritual leanings, we ask that you remember her in your prayers or meditations as well as so many others: Tommy Murphy of WMR Radio; Heather whose tumor has returned; George who just had his spleen removed; Mickey who is back in the hospital; the family of Rory Miggins RIP, Kristin's friend Dave; a terminally ill high school German teacher; Benjamin H, George, Jim Magee, Simon Shepherd, Bette & Bill, Thelma & Leo, little Bradley, Aunt Maisie, Aunt Anne, Celeste. Bobby's wife Pat, 4-year old CJ, little Dominic & Siobhan, cousin Michael, Miriam's friend, Aunt Sally, baby Joseph, RoseAnn, baby Maggie, Michael Shea and his family, Liadan, Penny, Pauline, and so many others who need our spiritual support especially our men and women in the military serving their country all over the world. Please God, they will all be home safe and sound soon.
ED. NOTE: Our prayer list is getting very long; if you have updates and a person's name can be taken off, please let us know - especially if our prayers have been answered. Thank you.
13. The Trivia Contest for December is posted. All entries must be in by midnight tonight -December 31st., whatever time zone you're in:
November's winner: Congratulations to Edith Cason (USA) who chose for her prize the James Joyce print so graciously provided by Dublin artist, Roger Cummiskey. To view more of Roger's works, please click:
14. Christmas Gifts: It's not too late to send a gift to almost anyone in the world if you buy them an amazon gift card. They're instantly redeemable by the lucky recipient who can choose from literally millions of items on the amazon web site. For more details, please click
(Be sure to copy and paste the entire URL into your browser; otherwise it won't work.

ED. NOTE: William Ramatour's Music Review column will return to the home page next week. If you'd like to read his latest offering, please click

So there you have it until we put pen to paper in a week or so. If you're celebrating a birthday, anniversary or other important event between now and then, we hope it's an occasion filled with joy and happiness.
Meanwhile, Shona Nollaig to you and yours and we'll take our leave with this lovely Irish blessing especially for the day that's in it:

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
Get down on your knees and thank God you're still on your feet!
Please check with the Wild Geese - they have a huge listing of events and we don't want to duplicate their efforts:
If we receive a unique event not mentioned there, we will be happy to list it here.

Dublin - January 23-27
For five days and nights, Temple Bar in the heart of the city, will come alive to the sound of jigs and reels from the many pubs and cultural centres in the area. With live music concerts, pub sessions, workshops, children's events, festival club and much much more, prepare for a barrage of flutes, accordions, bodhráns, mighty sessions and great craic! For complete details, please visit:
This was sent to us by our good and faithful contributor Hartson Dowd several years ago. As he says, no one can fracture a Christmas carol or song better than a kid. Sing along with these new takes on old favorites:

Deck the Halls with Buddy Holly

We three kings of porridge and tar

On the first day of Christmas my tulip gave to me

Later on we'll perspire, as we dream by the fire.

He's makin a list, chicken and rice.

Noel. Noel, Barney's the king of Israel.

With the jelly toast proclaim

Olive, the other reindeer.

Frosty the Snowman is a ferret elf, I say

Sleep in heavenly peas

In the meadow we can build a snowman, Then pretend that he is sparse and brown

You'll go down in listerine

Oh, what fun it is to ride with one horse, soap and hay