Lighting a candle in the window is a Christmas Eve memory I cherish from my Irish childhood.
Every Christmas Eve we placed a single red candle in the window. My mother always told me we were lighting the way for Mary and Joseph on their way to find the stable in Bethlehem.
Our family candle lighting ritual signaled Christmas had finally arrived.
And now as I grow older I light a candle in the window with my children every Christmas Eve in the hope this wonderful Irish tradition will continue for generations to come.
A candle in the window is a wonderful symbol of hospitality, a trait for which the Irish are renowned the world over.
But these Irish candles burning in the windows were not simply a beacon of hope for the Holy Family. They were also a sign of welcome for anyone, friend or stranger, who might be passing by on Christmas Eve.
All were welcome to stay and share whatever an Irish family may have had for Christmas. The Irish believed nobody should go without, especially at Christmas time.
This tradition was most widely practiced in the south of Ireland, especially in Munster. Since my family hail from County Cork, we continued the ancient rural tradition of lighting a candle in the window at Christmas time.
The candle was traditionally lit by a daughter called “Mary” or the youngest girl in the house. “Mary” was also called upon to extinguish the candle.
Now this practice is predominantly part of an Irish Catholic heritage. Many people from Ulster have never heard of this tradition.
The origins of lighting a candle in the window trace back to the 17th Century at the time of the Penal Laws in Ireland when the Catholic religion was suppressed.
Catholic churches were outlawed and priests hid in fear of their lives. They secretly said mass at secluded venues known as Mass Rocks. Priests often visited homes in secrecy to bless a family and to say Mass.
Irish Catholic families hoped that at some time in their lifetime a priest might visit on Christmas Eve to celebrate Mass with them.
By lighting a candle in the window they signaled to any passing priest that this was a Catholic home. The doors were unlocked allowing a priest to enter silently to join the family in prayer for Christmas.
Now all these lighted candles dotted across the countryside not only alerted priests in the vicinity, but also drew the attention of English soldiers.
The Irish needed to explain to the English authorities why they were lighting so many candles on Christmas Eve.
The rational that they were welcoming Mary and Joseph into their homes was a perfect solution. This Irish tradition or superstition was viewed as harmless by the English and created no undue alarm.
This tradition was born at a time of great upheaval for Irish Catholics. The need to signal a priest to our homes to say Mass may no longer exist, but I’m happy that we continue to light candles in the window to this very day, welcoming Mary and Joseph with open hearts.
One reader’s brother is a priest in Illinois, Msgr. Eric R. Barr, STL. He wrote a beautiful homily in 2010 called Candle Burning Warm, Candle Burning Bright, which tells the story of an Irish priest in Penal Times, and how this Irish candle lighting tradition began. You can read his Christmas story here – scroll down about half way in the page to find it.
And when I see lighted candles in the windows of American homes at Christmas, I know this Irish tradition crossed the Atlantic with our ancestors when they sought a welcome in a new land.
And so, whether you light a candle in the window this Christmas Eve, or simply light up your Christmas tree, I hope God’s spirit will reside within you as you pause and reflect upon the sacredness of this holiday.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom
“Freckles the Elf” has arrived to bring Christmas magic to Ireland and all over the globe this holiday season. Today, I’m delighted to introduce you to this new Christmas elf from the Emerald Isle and his creator Evelyn McGlynn.
A native of Donegal, Ireland, Evelyn Mc Glynn penned the book, “Freckles The Elf: Christmas Magic In Ireland” as a direct result of a tradition that has been in her own family for over 20 years.
Here’s how Evelyn tells the story of her inspiration for this adorable little elf …
“I read a Christmas story on Christmas Eve to my family and have done so since my first son was born 27 years ago. We have some really fond memories and it’s become a lasting tradition in our home and one that will hopefully be carried on through future generations. We add the year and date to each Christmas Eve book and store safely for those future generations I spoke about!”
Her three adult children, now in their 20s still enjoy their family tradition but have now added a Christmas Eve tradition of their own when they meet up with old friends home for Christmas in the local pub.
With so many Irish relocated throughout the world, many having settled in a new country with families of their own, Evelyn hopes this book will bring the magic of Christmas and Ireland right into their new homes.
She hopes Freckles the Elf will provide an opportunity to create memories and traditions for Irish people all over the globe. A short, but powerful read, Freckles the Elf delivers ten minutes of Christmas magic while encouraging families to take time and make memories.
The illustrations, by recently graduated local designer Jenny Yourell, greatly add to this heart-warming book and were beautifully hand drawn during her summer internship, fulfilling her dream to illustrate her very first children’s publication.
The story of Freckles The Elf is about a little boy called Shaun and his family, who leave New York just before Christmas for a new life in Ireland. His parents, having left during the recession, are returning “HOME” to a new Ireland, a land of growth and possibility. Through this magical story, we discover how we are all part of a greater global family and how each kind act will help Santa find us all on Christmas Eve through his magic #GPSChristmasHeartbeat computer.
But will it transmit from Ireland? Will Santa find Shaun on Christmas Eve? Can Freckles The Elf and her new Irish friend Mulligan succeed in their mission to deliver an unforgettable holiday season for Shaun and his family in their new Irish home?
The theme of “charity” and “belonging” within the book was crafted in collaboration with Irish Minister of state for the Diaspora and International Development, Joe McHugh
Minister Mc Hugh was happy to offer a foreword for the book and shared Evelyn’s vision in encouraging a sense of giving, to those who read the book.
Minister Mc Hugh says:
“The characters in this book are Global Irish and they portray all the Irish people who live abroad and who represent and live the strong values of community, family, charity and global citizenship. Ireland and its people are known for these values and I think this book shows off the best of this. “
A contribution from every book sold will go to The Aisling Irish Centre New York to help assist Irish immigrants in their transition to life in the USA.
Evelyn fostered a sense of connecting community and networking throughout by inviting Lottie Dolls, The Irish Fairy Door Company , Sligo Institute of Technology and Irish business Crafty Kids to work with her on the project. Friends , family and local community also helped craft this book.
At a fun-filled focus group, local children delivered their feedback on the characters and the story line while the global online community made up of the Irish Diaspora were invited to share and support a global launch of the book on Nov 4th 2016.
Having received the Christmas book they will post photos and video on their social media accounts using the hash tag #FrecklesTheElf and #ChristmasMagicInIreland ensuring the Irish Diaspora worldwide can share in the magic “Freckles The Elf: Christmas Magic In Ireland” will bring this holiday season.
For more information contact:
Evelyn McGlynn, the author of “Freckles The Elf Christmas Magic In Ireland” …
From USA (011 353) 87 2246989
From Ireland 087 2246989
E-mail [email protected]
You can also find Freckles the Elf on Facebook.
Where To Buy:
Freckles The Elf Christmas Magic In Ireland retails at
A big thank you to Evelyn for sharing the story of Freckles the Elf with us today, and wishing him every success as he spreads some Irish Christmas cheer around the globe this holiday season.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom
Happy 4th of July!
I LOVE America’s birthday. It’s wonderful how it lands at the beginning of hot and steamy July, perfect for family get-togethers, barbecues, and having good old fashioned fun.
I often wonder how Jefferson would view our celebrations today, including fireworks, beer drinking, non-stop-all-day eating, and crazy American flag themed garb, from hats to bikinis.
Would Jefferson approve? While we all recognize the Fourth of July as the most patriotic of all American holidays, it’s also the most nostalgic and sentimental holiday of the summer. Despite being born in Ireland, I have become an American citizen, and embrace this annual celebration.
I thought today would be fitting to share my photos of American pride, together with ten reasons why I love Independence Day.
#1: The History:
Let’s face it! The 4th of July is the most significant national holiday in the United States. We celebrate the fact thirteen of the original American Colonies declared themselves independent of the British Empire, and formed into the states we know today.
The second Continental Congress ratified this Declaration of Independence on July 4th 1776. The second statement in the Declaration of Independence is one I hope my children will commit to memory …
“We hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator
with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty
and the pursuit of Happiness.”
#2: The Heat:
Yes! I love the heat that is usually guaranteed all across America on the 4th of July. We are so lucky Jefferson and his cosignatories decided to ratify the Declaration of Independence bang smack in the middle of summer, rather than in the dead of winter.
Without all the summer fun and hoopla, I think Indpendence Day celebrations would be less enthusiastic if the day fell just before or after Thanksgiving and Christmas.
It is this holiday’s summer scheduling that allows Independence Day stand out on its own, and be celebrated in a uniquely American way.
Fourth of July parades come in all shapes and sizes. Some are huge affairs, organized at city level. Some parades are small, but cuter than cute.
I love to see kids waving flags with patriotic zeal as sweaty parents pull them along the parade route in little red wagons. Trust me, I’ve been there and done my fair share of wagon pulling. And what makes a parade even cooler is when the route is lined with cheering grandparents.
Independence Day parades are a quintessential part of being American. I think partaking in a local Texas parade was a turning point in my American evolution. After waving my American flag from the back of a friend’s pick-up truck, I knew I was truly an American.
#4: The Food:
Forget your healthy eating on the 4th of July. No green smoothies today.
The grub is all about barbecue, burgers, hot dogs, potato chips with every seasoning combination imaginable, corn on the cob dripping in melted butter, potato salad made with lashings of mayonnaise, shrimp, ketchup, mustard, watermelon, cookies, patriotic cakes. I could go on and on.
But hold the pickles for me. This Irish girl still hasn’t learned to eat an American pickle – just haven’t reached that stage of my American evolution.
Forget about your diet today. Enjoy your all American feast that is an essential part of every July 4th celebration.
#5: Outdoor Games:
You don’t need a pool to have fun outdoors on the 4th. An outdoor pool does help cool things off, but don’t let the lack thereof hamper any outdoor antics.
Corn toss screams Independence Day to this Irish girl, especially here in Kentucky. Tossing the bag at just the right speed and trajectory is a skill I practice only on the 4th of July.
But let’s face it, the options are endless for outdoor games. Badminton, volleyball, egg and spoon races, patriotic sack races, ring toss, horse shoes – the sky’s the limit.
But my favorite thing of all, at the end of each Independence Day, is to watch my kids chasing fire flies in our back yard. There’s something so American about fireflies. Don’t have those little critters in Ireland.
Fourth of July would not be a truly patriotic national birthday celebration without fireworks.
I have wonderful firework memories from my early years in New York/New Jersey. I lived in Hoboken and every year we would gather on the roof top of our apartment building to watch the most amazing fireworks exploding in the sky right in front of us.
Even though New York’s fireworks were on the Brooklyn side of Manhattan, our rooftop vantage point in Hoboken was just perfect.
#7: Patriotic Clothing:
Many Americans display their patriotism by wearing clothing with patterns and designs of the American flag. Some believe this practice violates the US Flag Code.
Sorry for getting a little controversial on Independence Day, but I personally love some of the shirts and hats worn by people on this special day.
Here are my thoughts. Flag patterned clothing is a way for citizens to demonstrate their patriotism. It is the actual flag that should never be used as clothing or as a blanket. The only exception would be when an Olympic champion or a military veteran drapes a flag over their shoulders on a special occasion.
I love how so many Americans demonstrate their allegiance by wearing red, white and blue in crazy stars and stripe patterns, that only the most talented designers could ever create.
Millions of American flags will fly high across the nation today, stirring patriotic thoughts, feelings, and memories for Americans.
Seeing Old Glory displayed throughout neighborhoods gives us a fierce sense of loyalty and pride. The star-spangled banner symbolizes the core values and beliefs of this nation, which we celebrate today.
I love how so many Americans raise a flag outside their home on this important day. Thank you America!
#9: Friends and Family:
Another reason I love July 4th is because it is a happy-go-lucky kind of a day. The atmosphere is jovial and less stressed than during other holidays.
It’s a day when people eat, drink and be merry. Moods are upbeat, stories are shared and laughter rings loudly. So grab a chair, preferably one that’s plonked right beside a friend or a relative. Have a sip of lemonade or beer or whatever takes your fancy, and just let the conversation flow. Today is all about friends and family.
#10: Freedom To Celebrate Freedom:
And finally, on a more serious note, let’s talk about freedom. This term is batted around easily, but why do we really appreciate freedom on the 4th. Here are my thoughts…
America is full of diversity. We are all so very, very different. But on the 4th of July we all come together to celebrate America’s independence and our rights to be different.
It does not matter whether we worship in a beautiful rural wooden church, or under the big, open skies of America; whether we choose to go forth and multiply or not to have children at all; whether we pay an arm and a leg to educate our offspring in private schools, or gather around the family table to share our knowledge though home schooling; nor whether we choose to stay in our own neck of the woods, or travel the four corners of the globe, there is one certainty this Monday.
We all gather together to celebrate our freedom to make these choices, and to rejoice as a nation, because today is America’s birthday.
Happy Birthday America!
And so, there you have it. My top ten reasons for loving the 4th of July.
Remember, be sure to let the kids go wild and run free, sit down and have a chat with family and friends, watch a parade, enjoy the light show, set off some fireworks of your own, catch a few fireflies, eat till you nearly burst, and of course, don’t forget to wear something red, white and blue.
Slán agus beannacht!
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom
This week we will commemorate Ireland’s patron saint, but rest assured we are not alone in our celebrations. St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated all around the world, in over 190 countries, the obvious places being Ireland, the US, Canada and Australia!
With New York being the first additional place to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in 1762 and Ireland being its origins, the folks over at Irishshop.com were interested to see how the rest of the world celebrated St Patrick’s Day.
Did you know Savannah, Georgia hosts the second biggest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the United States?
The following countries are worth considering to celebrate St Patrick’s Day, if freezing your behind off on O’Connell Street or 5th Avenue while waiting for the parade, isn’t your idea of fun.
Singapore is definitely a place that anyone would love for St. Patrick’s Day. Each year the St. Patrick’s society of Singapore organizes an event in the Shangri-La hotel offering free-flowing wine, beer, and live music.
If the Shangri-La is a little out of your budget, no sweat. Singaporeans love to celebrate on the 17th. You will find the Singapore river dyed green and a parade that is led by a Harley Davidson convoy.
Cabo Roig, Spain
The picturesque town of Cabo Roig Spain hosts the largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in Spain. The bars and restaurants don their best green decor, and host Irish entertainment with a Spanish twist.
Fancy a bit of Irish Dancing or perhaps flamenco on Paddy’s Day? Well in Cabo Roig, you can have both! Celebrations spill over well into the night with a fireworks display to finish off the festivities.
In 2010 Ghana began to celebrate St. Patricks Day making it the newest official celebration of the 17th. Forget the rain, Accra in Ghana celebrate St Patrick’s Day in the relaxing ocean retreat sipping cocktails and enjoying the nice sea breeze!
Irish aid workers will use the funds raised to help bring water to rural villages. The main culinary delicacy paying homage to St. Patrick in Ghana is the “grilled beef steak marinated in whiskey”!
The beautiful Emerald Isle of Caribbean Island is home to just 5,000 people. Montserrat is the only country in the world aside from Ireland where St. Patrick’s Day is declared a public holiday. The 17th of March is so widely celebrated in Montserrat to pay homage to its Afro-Irish culture.
In the 1600s many Irish were shipped to Montserrat against their will and there they stayed. The tiny Caribbean island is drenched in history and folklore just like its Irish counterpart. On the 17th you can sing, dance, drink green beer as well as traditional rum punch. Many of the locals will be wearing traditional dress with green being the dominant color.
The INJ (Irish Network Japan) set up the first St. Patricks Day parade in 1992. Since then the parade has shown that the people of Tokyo love a bit of Irish.
Last year the parade in Omotesando had over 15,000 participants with over 50,000 spectators. Everyone comes out in their best green clothing they can find. The parade is filled with Irish dancers, bagpipes and “Voucher Girls”. Not surprisingly these are a main highlight as these pretty Japanese girls carry vouchers for free booze.
Ever felt that one day of drinking and eating wasn’t enough for St Patricks Day? Well in Florence you can celebrate from the 17th right up until the 22nd at the Irish Festival or “Festa Irelandes” as it is called in Florence, Italy.
In honour of good ol’ St. Patrick himself, you can celebrate days of live music, food and drink. If you are looking for a truly Irish-Italian experience get yourself to Finnegan’s bar.
But are they better than Ireland?
There might be places around the world that could possibly sound better than Ireland to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, but can they beat the authenticity and experience of celebrating it in Ireland?
It cannot be denied that on St. Patrick’s Day everyone feels a little bit Irish, but think about it is there anywhere in the world you rather be than on the beautiful Emerald Isle?
So What Does Ireland Feel Like On St. Patrick’s Day?
The craic being absolute 90 (so they say), everyone is dressed in their best greens with shamrocks pinned to their coats. Find yourself sitting in a small cozy pub drinking the finest pint of Guinness you have ever tasted, music and song flowing through the air, bodhráns, Irish dancers and the Wolfe Tones being sung by crowds of proud Irish as if their songs were the National Anthem.
It’s no wonder everyone wants to be a little bit Irish on the 17th!
It will resonate with you that yes other countries may be sunny and warm, they may have lots of their own traditions but there really is nowhere like Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day.
How Irish Are You?
A big thank you to the good folks at the Irish Shop for putting together this little round up of Irish celebrations around the world.
They have a fun quiz on their site asking “How Irish Are You?”, and I am happy to report I am officially 100% Irish. I passed with flying colors, or should I say with flying green colors.
To uncover how Irish you actually are, take their “How Irish Are You?” quiz and be in with a chance of winning a voucher for $100 to spend online.
Slán agus beannacht!
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom
Especially for Valentine’s Day, I thought we might explore the topic of romance and the Irish.
I know we are not world renowned romantics like the French and the Italians, but Ireland is a land of poets and balladeers, so we must have a romantic side too.
Sending Anonymous Valentine’s Cards:
When I was growing up in Dublin, St. Valentine’s Day was just for teenagers and those in their early 20’s. Unsigned cards were delivered through mail boxes across the city, raising all kinds of questions about would-be card senders, and potential admirers.
Who sent who a card was the topic of the day. Now that I am many years older I realize most of the cards were sent by parents, not yearning admirers.
My Irish Romantic Credentials:
Since those early days of penning anonymous Valentine’s cards, I must confess I have done little to develop my romantic credentials.
Truth be told, the very mention of Valentine’s Day makes me cringe, just a tad. After 23 years of marriage, I understand a little about love and commitment, but when Valentine’s Day comes around I find all the commercially-driven, compulsory outpourings of love a little off-putting.
And so since my romantic credentials are so sadly lacking I thought I would recruit the help of the good folk at Celtic Cross Online, who put together this informative graphic about the Irish and romance.
Romantic Ireland’s Alive And Well:
And so, are the Irish any good at romance?
The big problem I perceive is that romance itself is very hard to define.
We Irish may not be any good at showy demonstrations of love and affection which are universally accepted as romantic gestures. But if you carefully examine the romantic traditions outlined in this graphic and our old Irish sayings, it’s clearly evident we’re very good at loyalty and commitment.
For me, romance has nothing in the world to do with money wasted on unnecessary gifts or flowers. For me, romance is something completely intangible and priceless. It’s the ongoing devotion that helps us plod onward together in life, through thick and thin, always trusting in each other’s love and support.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all!
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom
P.S. This is not a sponsored post and I don’t have a business relationship with the good folks at Celtic Cross Online. I simply enjoyed their infographic, appreciate the effort they put into creating it, and thought you might like it too.