21 October 2023

A Dublin launch
for a book that
is a ‘must’ for every
Christmas stocking

‘Christmas and the Irish: a miscellany’, edited by Salvador Ryan, is being launched in time for Christmas

Patrick Comerford

There was good news earlier this week in advance of the publication next month of Christmas and the Irish: a miscellany. This new book is to be launched officially in the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, on Thursday 30 November by the Wexford folklorist Michael Fortune.

This collection, edited by my friend and colleague Professor Salvador Ryan of Maynooth follows the success of his three-volume series, Birth, Marriage and Death and the Irish (2016-2021), and it has been a privilege to have been invited to contribute to all four volumes in this collection.

I know there are still two months to go to Christmas, but it is worth thinking of adding this new book to your list of Christmas presents this year.

This book examines the celebration of Christmas among the Irish, from the seventh century to the present day. The 75 chapters or articles range from the serious to the light-hearted, The writers are drawn from a range of academic disciplines and professions, including anthropology, Celtic studies, education, folklore, healthcare, history, journalism, literature, media and broadcasting, pastoral ministry, philosophy and theology.

In their papers, the writer reflect on what Christmas has meant to Irish people through the ages, whether living at home or abroad.

The topics covered include: the theme of light in early Irish texts; festive feasting and fighting in the Middle Ages; the Kilmore carols of Co Wexford; the history of Irish Christmas food through the centuries; crimes of Christmas past; Christmas on the Blasket Islands; the claim that ‘Santa’s Grave’ is in County Kilkenny; why Irish missionaries in Zimbabwe regularly missed out on their Christmas dinner; the origins and early life of the ‘Late Late Toy Show’; a Christmas surprise among Irish peacekeepers in the Lebanon; Christmas customs among the Travelling Community; Christmas and the Irish Jewish community; the Wren Boys; ‘Women’s Christmas’; Irish links to popular Christmas carols; Christmas and James Joyce; the curious custom of reciting 4,000 ‘Hail Marys’ in the lead up to Christmas; and why it became an established tradition for the Viceroy to send a woodcock to the British monarch every Christmas.

This anthology promises to be a fascinating read for all who are interested in the social, cultural, and religious history of Ireland, and undoubtedly it will delight everyone who loves Christmas.

Many of the contributors are my friends and colleague. In her essay, another Wexford historian, Dr Ida Milne of Carlow College, recalls her mother being the organist at the Christmas carol services in Ferns Cathedral.

Other contributors include Ian d’Alton of TCD, Seamus Dooley of the NUJ, the Limerick historian Se├ín Gannon, Crawford Gribben and Laurence Kirkpatrick, both of QUB, the singer-songwriter Max McCoubrey, Miriam Moffitt, John-Paul Sheridan of Maynooth, Clodagh Tait of Limerick.

In this latest venture, I have three papers in this new Christmas volume:

• The ‘Wexford Carol’ and the mystery surrounding some old and popular Christmas carols;

• ‘We Three Kings of Orient are’: an Epiphany carol with Irish links;

• Molly Bloom’s Christmas card: where Joycean fiction meets a real-life family.

Salvador Ryan is also planning some regional ‘launches’ of sorts in the weeks leading up to Christmas:

• National Museum of Ireland (Country Life), Castlebar, Co Mayo, Saturday 2 December at 3 pm. There, Salvador Ryan will deliver a talk on Christmas traditions and their origins, followed by a small launch of the book afterwards.

• Cavan County Museum, Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan, Wednesday 6 December, at 7pm. Once again, the editor will deliver a presentation (through song and story) on the origins of Christmas, and there will be an opportunity to pick up contributor copies of the book on the night.

• Source Library and Arts Centre, Thurles, Co Tipperary, Tuesday 12 December at 8pm. This will be a launch of the volume by the local poet Larry Doherty.

Salvador Ryan is Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Saint Patrick’s Pontifical University, Maynooth. He writes on religious and cultural history from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. His other published titles include Death and the Irish, Marriage and the Irish, and Birth and the Irish (Dublin: Wordwell Books, 2016-2021); We Remember Maynooth: a College across Four Centuries (Dublin: Messenger Publications, 2020); Northern European Reformations: Transnational Perspectives (Palgrave, 2020); Material Cultures of Devotion in the Age of Reformations (Peeters, 2022), and Reforming the Church: Global Perspectives (Liturgical Press, 2023).

Copies of Christmas and the Irish: a miscellany will be available to buy at each launch event. It is also available to order in time for Christmas through local bookshops.

This exciting new book can be ordered HERE.

Christmas and the Irish: a miscellany, ed Salvador Ryan (Dublin: Wordwell Books), €25, ISBN: 978-1-913934-93-4

The Royal Irish Academy, Dawson Street, Dublin … the venue for next month’s book launch

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (146) 21 October 2023,
Week of Prayer for World Peace (7)

‘We pray for recovery in the years to come, for restoration, generosity, healing, closure’ (John Birch) … street art in Gort, Co Galway (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

We are in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, and tomorrow is the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XX, 22 October 2023).

Before today begins, I am taking some time for prayer and reflection early this morning.

The Week of Prayer for World Peace began last Sunday, and so my reflections each morning during these eight days are gathered around this theme in these ways:

1, A reflection on the Week of Prayer for World Peace ;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

The Week of Prayer for World Peace began with ‘A Call to Prayer for World Peace’ signed by faith leaders in 1974

A Week of Prayer for World Peace:

The International Prayer For Peace:

Lead me from death to life, from falsehood to truth
Lead me from despair to hope, from fear to trust
Lead me from hate to love, from war to peace
Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our universe

Day 7, Consequences: Remembering those impacted by all forms of violence:

Hiroshima Child

I come and stand at every door
but none can hear my silent tread.
I knock and yet remain unseen
for I am dead, for I am dead.

I’m only seven though I died
in Hiroshima long ago.
I’m seven now as I was then.
When children die they do not grow.

My hair was scorched by swirling flame,
my eyes grew dim, my eyes grew blind.
Death came and turned my bones to dust
and that was scattered by the wind.

I need no fruit, I need no rice,
I need no sweets nor even bread,
I ask for nothing for myself,
for I am dead, for I am dead.

All that I need is that for peace
you fight today, you fight today,
so that the children of this world
can live and grow and laugh and play.
Nazim Hikmet, Turkish poet

We pray for lives lost, families torn apart, lost and
lonely, homeless, hungry, afraid.

We pray for factories destroyed in an instant, for
machinery shattered,
livelihoods ruined.

We pray for rescuers, finding survivors alongside
bodies, courageous,
undaunted, hopeful.

We pray for recovery in the years to come, for
restoration, generosity,
healing, closure.
John Birch, Welsh Methodist preacher

Victory creates hatred. Defeat creates suffering. The wise ones desire neither victory nor defeat … Anger creates anger … He who kills will be killed. He who wins will be defeated … Revenge can only be overcome by abandoning revenge … The wise seek neither victory nor defeat.
Words of The Buddha

‘All that I need is that for peace / you fight today’ (Hiroshima Child, Nazim Hikmet) … floating peace lanterns on Willen Lake on Hiroshima Day (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Luke 12: 8-12 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 8 ‘And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; 9 but whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 11 When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say.’

‘We pray for lives lost, families torn apart, lost and lonely, homeless, hungry, afraid’ (John Birch) … clothes for Ukrainian families in a refugee centre in Helsinki (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Today’s Prayers: USPG Prayer Diary:

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), has been ‘Helpline to women in need.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (21 October 2023) invites us to pray in these words:

We pray for a world in which all people are safe from violence and abuse.

The Collect:

O God, forasmuch as without you
we are not able to please you;
mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit
may in all things direct and rule our hearts;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post Communion Prayer:

Holy and blessed God,
you have fed us with the body and blood of your Son
and filled us with your Holy Spirit:
may we honour you,
not only with our lips
but in lives dedicated to the service
of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday’s Reflection

Continued Tomorrow

The Week of Prayer for World Peace began on Sunday 15 October 2023

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org