House of Brigid 2009-10

House of Brigid 2009-10

27 December 2009

Nollaig Shona Dhuit!

Happy Christmas from the House of Brigid!
It's been far too long since our last posting, but I wanted to extend warm wishes for a blessed Christmas season from all of us here in Wexford. We have had many letters from friends and family at home, and all of them seem to begin by saying something like "We're sorry you won't be celebrating Christmas at home this year." While it is true that being away from friends and family can be difficult during the holidays, I can assure everyone that the three of us have been more than well taken care of, from both sides of the pond.
In addition to Christmas greetings from our own friends and families, we received as a community a wonderful surprise from our friends in the Folk Choir: a new board game for the house, and Christmas ornaments decorated with pictures of each individual choir member. I wish I could recreate the moment when Martha and I opened the box and realized what was inside it--each of us saw different Folkheads smiling up at us, and we just... well, yelled, really. It was hilarious. The ornaments look great, and it was so moving to know that everyone took time out of their busy schedule of preparing for finals to make sure the three of us knew that they were thinking of us at Christmastime.
Here in Ireland, the Christmas spirit has been non-stop. We received numerous Christmas cards and goodies, as well as several beautiful keepsake ornaments that are sure to conjure vivid memories of our Irish Christmas as we hang them on our trees many Christmases from now. We've enjoyed many new traditions such as mulled wine, mince pies, Christmas crackers, and flaming plum pudding, just to name a few!
Liturgically, the season afforded us the opportunity to learn some new carols, teach some new carols, and sing the old favorites with full heart and voice. Through our carol services and working with the Clonard Family Liturgy Group, we learned a couple of Irish traditional carols. One is called Don OĆ­che ud I mBeithil, which we were told is a beloved carol throughout Ireland. The title means "I sing of a night in Bethlehem," and it tells of how the first Christmas night was as bright as the dawn. It is a beautiful, haunting tune (as only the Irish can write!); it's one of those that lingers in your head long after you hear it, and one that I will always remember. The other tune is called "A Mhuire Mathair," or "To Mother Mary." It's a combination of Irish and Latin, and it's a Christmas greeting to Our Lady, praising her as the mother of the Infant Jesus, and acknowledging her place as our mother as well, and the text is set to a lyrical tune that reminds me of a lullaby. It was so moving to hear these songs sung by young children, hearing them participate so beautifully in their tradition and heritage.
Within our own vigil choir, we were able to teach several new pieces this year. Since we had the first Vigil Mass of Christmas Eve at 5pm, we decided to begin preludes at 4:30 with a carol sing. The line-up included old favorites like "Joy to the World" and "O Holy Night," but it also included "From East to West" and the chant "Unto Us a Child is Born," both by Chrysogonus Waddell. I was so proud of the choir--they sang "Unto Us a Child is Born" a capella, and even sang the refrain in four-part harmony. It was beautiful! We were also able to teach "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming" and "Of the Father's Love Begotten," both of which were very warmly received by the choir members.
I think my personal favorite carol of this season has been "The Wexford Carol." I had been familiar with this piece for a while through various carol services back in the States, so when I realized I was moving to its place of origin, I knew immediately that we'd be using it at Christmas. Through researching the carol's history, I discovered that it was not written in Wexford town, that it actually originated in Enniscorthy, which is about 20 minutes northwest of Wexford. Some people call it "The Enniscorthy Carol," but the name "Wexford Carol" actually refers to County Wexford, not Wexford Town. Geographical technicalities aside, it is a beautiful piece of music, and it was great to introduce it to Chris and Martha, to use it in the Scoil Mhuire carol service, and to sing it on Christmas Day at Mass.
Look for future posts with pictures and videos from the Christmas carol services of Kennedy Park and Scoil Mhuire, and once again, many thanks again to all who have written to us from home and abroad, and most especially thanks to everyone here in Wexford who made sure that we felt as much at home here at Christmas as we would have in our own country. We are so grateful to have the prayers and love and support of so many wonderful people here in Wexford and back at home. May God bless all of you this Christmas season with the peace and joy the Christ-Child brings, may your families and friends know success and prosperity throughout the New Year, and may all of us strive to bring the love of God to all we encounter in all that we do.
Happy Christmas, everyone!

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