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Christmas in Killarney

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“Christmas in Killarney” combines a festive music with the most genuine Christmas tradition in South Ireland.

The text was composed in 1950 by the Americans John Redmond, James Cavanaugh and Frank Weldon, but Killarney is a tourist town (perhaps too crowded in the summer season) located in Ireland, in the county of Kerry, province of Munster: the town is pretty, “very picturesque” surrounded by the Killarney National Park , a true paradise, with breathtaking waterfalls and lakes and the inevitable castle, the Ross Castle.
The Christmas celebrations are particularly lively with float parades, an always open ice rink, Santa’s House and Christmas market stalls, and lots of music.


In Ireland it was customary to put a lighted candle in front of the window on Christmas Eve to welcome Mary and Joseph. It was also the way to signal to priests, in the period in which it was forbidden, that in that house they could enter to give the blessing.
Tradition has it that the candle is lit by the youngest member of the family and turned off by a girl named “Mary” (at one time the name was very common in Irish families). After dinner on the eve the table is prepared again with cumin and raisin bread in the middle, a jug of milk and a lit candle, leaving the front door ajar, so that Mary and Joseph or any tramp, can come in and sit down table to have a refreshment.

Irish Rovers

Barra McNeils

The holly green, the ivy green (1)
The prettiest picture you’ve ever seen
Is Christmas in Killarney
With all of the folks at home.
It’s nice, you know, to kiss your beau
While cuddling under the mistletoe (2)
And Santa Claus you know, of course
Is one of the boys from home.
The door is always open (3)
The neighbors pay a call
And Father John before he’s gone
Will bless the house and all (4).
Our Hearts are light, our spirits bright
We’ll celebrate our joy tonight
It’s Christmas in Killarney
With all of the folks at home
We’ll decorate the Christmas tree (5)
While all the family’s here
Around a roaring fire (6)
We will raise a cup of cheer (7)
There’s gifts to bring and songs to sing
And laughs to make the rafters ring
It’s Christmas in Killarney
With all of the folks at home
We’ll take the Horse and Sleigh (8)
All across the fields of snow
Listening to the jingle bells
And everywhere we go
How grand it feels to click your heels (9)
And dance away to the jigs and reels
It’s Christmas in Killarney
With all of the folks at home
The holly green, the ivy green
The prettiest picture you’ve ever seen
I’m handing you no blarney
No matter where you roam
It’s Christmas in Killarney
With all of the folks at home
1) decorating the house for the festivities of mid-winter is an ancient custom, maintained in the Middle Ages, till today (cf)
2) the kiss under the mistletoe has remote origins, perhaps dating back to the Saturnalia or the Celts. Of all the hypotheses, all what refers to the Scandinavian myth of Balder’s death is the most likely. The custom, as an auspicious gesture, is historically found in the Tudor era in the twelve days of Christmas. In the nineteenth century when it was a curse for women to remain unmarried, there were many superstitious gestures to be observed all year round, but in particular on New Year’s Eve: that of exchanging a kiss under the mistletoe with anyone who came within range was auspicious for an imminent engagement and if you did it with your boyfriend you were already certain of the wedding!
Once you could give as many kisses as the berries of the mistletoe bush, but now you can kiss at will without removing the berries to count the kisses.
3) we refer not only to the exchange of visits between neighbors and acquaintances, but also to the generosity towards the most needy and the poor who went around the houses with begging songs (cf)
4) in the homes of Catholics the priest used to blessing the rooms and the people gathered together at Christmas
5) Christmas tree was a typically Germanic custom introduced in England in 1840 by Queen Victoria, in love with her handsome prince Albert. Already the Romans for the Saturnalia and the Calendae decorated the house with fir branches, fertility spirits that they remained laden with leaves even in the middle of winter. And yet it is not possible to trace the passage from these twigs to the Christmas tree.
A legend tells of Wilfred of Credition a Christian priest of the 8th century, missionary in Germany: to dissuade the “pagans” in the ritual practices in honor of the old gods he had an oak, the sacred plant of Odin, cut down. But a fir tree was born nearby so Wilfred proclaimed it the emblem of the new faith.
6) Christmas log (what remains of the ancient tradition of Yule) a large trunk brought home on Christmas day which was to burn slowly for the 12 nights of the feast cf
7) toast of the wassail, the ancient cult of trees that became an auspicious drink (cf)
8) the horse-drawn buggies, in winter they were equipped with skates to slide on the snow. There were essentially two models, a small two or four-seater, a small intimate and comfortable sled, the second was a taller, bigger and sturdy sled to accommodate a family (which at the time was quite numerous among children and relatives) or a friends’ group. The bells were a sign of allert to prevent accidents between the sledges: especially with the haze and darkness the sound of bells alerted the approach of a sled; in the Christmas context the clinking recalls the Santa’s sleigh (Jingle bells)
10) typical way of dancing in Ireland

Pubblicato da Cattia Salto

Amministratore e folklorista di Terre Celtiche Blog

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