As a boy growing up in Dublin, Christmas was a time of excitement, giggles of expectancy, presents and chocolate, we were consumed by it! Weeks before Christmas a sort of madness descends over all, people do all sorts of strange stuff and is otherwise known as the "Silly Season".
Women usually decorate the trees with fairy lights, tinsel strips, baubles of all colours and golden trinkets from all parts of the world some sent from a sister, daughter or son working abroad. They would hang anything that would green a magpie's eye. Irish women are great throughout Christmas, making rich fruitcakes often months beforehand, cleaning the house, buying food, wrapping presents and organising the children and men. The men even give up The Drink and attend church on Sunday. Coming closer to Christmas they go into the mountains and chop down small pine trees or buy one locally, drag it home, along with a mountain of fire wood, and erect it in the front room for all the neighbours to admire and gossip. They would sit in front of the fire like Kings, surveying all and drinking fine alcohol and later they would be standing and swaying , raucously singing glorious ballads while raising glasses to all and gone ! Visitors would arrive throughout the night handshaking and hugging, all the while dodging the embraces of a hottening fire and christmas tree.
On Christmas day the 25th of December we attend church as a family, everybody is there, even the agnostics would be saints, holding hands and singing carols. Everybody is smiling and passing on the Season´s good wishes to each other, love and goodwill is in the air. The children are bored and thinking about their presents, that Santa left for them, under the tree...
They pull their parents from their church seats and rush them the short walk home. They begrudge moments of time with neighbours and friends, until the children get to the tree and presents.
In a short time, a cacophony of happiness, bleating robots, whirring lights, electric cars would reach a deafening crescendo smoothering my parents protestations, a boring monologue about batteries and time.
As hunger began to moan we would make our way to the dining room and sit down to a feast. Ma always laid out a tasty dinner of turkey and ham, sauces in French style and vegetables a la.. something , we pulled Christmas crackers and won silly toys and hats, and read corny jokes, we loved the fun of it all, the stagecraft .
For desert we had pudding and cream, maybe coffee with chocolate, I remember not being able to move from the table. This went on for the whole 12 days of Christmas, ending on the 6th of January to celebrate “Little Christmas”. Spanish people also celebrate this day but they attribute this to the three wise men or Magi who visited after Jesus birth and left presents of gold, myrrh and frankincense. Like the three Magi who bring presents to good Spanish children, but if you´re naughty as in Ireland, you get coal instead …