Whenever Christmas day falls on a Friday I am reminded of 1981, when my old neighbour Jimmy Norton was told, “Christmas Day falls on a Friday this year.” Jimmy replied, “I hope it’s not Friday the thirteenth.”
Almost everybody has a favourite memory of a Christmas past. I just giving you here two samples; One written by my good self and the more well-expressed one written by a friend of mine Liam McCauley.
CHRISTMAS MORNING 1952
Can one ever really relive a memory or successfully re-capture a feeling? Yes, I think so, if only fleetingly and infrequently..
It was Christmas morning 1952. I was being let by the hand to early Mass in Lacken. Why did my mother have me by the hand since, in the words of Patrick Kavanagh, I was “six Christmases of age”? It was partly because my mother considered me “wild”; although in later life I would always claim that I was an eejit but didn’t tick any of the boxes that would constitute “wild.”
Rural electrification was just arriving in Lacken and the surrounding area but had not yet been switched on. Post- dawn it would be possible to see poles which had stood, complete with insulators, all summer, sentry-like across the countryside and now strung with high-tension cables. An ESB official, one Mr Heevy from Naas, had called to the school to complaing about the number of insulaters which had been the victim of stone-throwing. The schoolboys from the townland of Ballinastockan were the prime suspects. Not because they were more destructive than the rest of us but they were young marksmen with a stone or any small missile.
If you stood close to an ESB pole and looked up it appeared to be falling, something to do with an illusion caused by the rolling clouds. The term opto-kinetic movement would have meant very little to a young mind. Not every house opted for the “’lectric light”. This was mainly out of economic necessity and the “cups” on the chimney became somewhat of a status symbol. The switching-on ceremony would be performed in The Parish Hall, Valleymount, in January 1953 but for now the valley’s illumination was confined to candles in windows. Conversation in the area was dominated by several fanciful theories and adult Mass-goers spoke of the well- dressed men in Ford vans who were travelling the district selling everything from irons, to kettles to Electric fires.
An ESB official, on Mr Heevy from Naas, had called to the school to complain about the number of insulators which had been the victims of stone-throwing. The young schoolboys from the townland of Ballinastockan were the immediate suspects. Not because they were more destructive than the rest of but they were all young marksmen with a missile.
A feeling came over me that morning. Would it ever be repeated? Yes. On Saturday 29th September 1979 I was living in Blanchardstown and working as a Bus Conductor in Conyngham Road Garage. Pope John Paul 11 was arriving that day and it meant an early start for many of us. As I drove down Knockmaroon Hill at 5AM, while the endless line of tail-lights ahead of me barely moved, it came back. That feeling. It was once again Christmas morning 1952.
A DONEGAL CHRISTMAS.
By Liam MCauley.
When most of us think about Christmas, I suppose a lot of our thoughts relate to rushing about, last Christmas cards to be posted, presents to be bought and preparations for festivities on the day itself. Of course the crib, amongst other things, reminds us of the real foundation of the festive season, around the Holy Family itself.
All these combine to create our memories of the season; but of course many of these memories carry back to our own childhood, a time when all was right with the world. Before worldly worries played a part and favourite toys and a visitor in the night were the most immediate things in life.
My own favourite memory goes back to the 1960’s, when we had one of the rare white Christmases we have in this temperate climate of ours.
At that time, in South Donegal, there were not too many cars and it was customary for the four families in our locality to walk together for the half-mile journey to the chapel for midnight Mass.
In the four families there was a total of nine children, making the journey, with the anticipation that Santa Clause would arrive while we were in the chapel.
That particular morning was beautiful with a three of four-inch fall of virgin snow and the cool crisp air made the quietness even more pronounced. The bare branches of trees and shrubs tipped with snow and berries, the surrounding hills covered in the united colour of white.
The quietness only lasted until, as a group, we children suddenly realised that, there, in the middle of the road was a trail of twin-toed hoof marks running along in front of us.
There was only one thing could have made these footprints, Santa’s reindeer.