Traditional Christmas With a Twist
by Denise Hogan
Although is has been 10 years since I spent Christmas in Ireland,
I can't help but wish every year that I was that child again. No matter
how old I got, I couldn't wait for the season to roll around. Since living
in the US, I have always wondered if the Christmas traditions we had in
our house in Dublin were just like any home around Ireland.
Christmas for us started during the midterm break from school in
October (Halloween Week). This was when my mother would make the two Christmas
puddings and put them away. Yes, she always made two of them, and you will
know why very soon. I would watch attentively every year, waiting for when
she would tell us it was time to stir the mix three times and make a wish.
Once this was done she would leave the pudding mix to sit over night. The
following day, the stove would be on all day boiling the puddings. I will
share our pudding recipe at the end of this article.
After the midterm break, we would return to school and begin the
seven-week countdown to Christmas. At the end of November, my mother would
start the feverish house cleaning that was the second sign that the holiday
was approaching. When I say feverish, I mean that every piece of furniture
was moved, cleaned, cleaned behind and put back. Every bit of woodwork
in the house was scrubbed and polished. Every curtain came off the window,
was washed, ironed and put away until it was time to put the tree up. The
windows were scrubbed and polished until you could almost see your conscience
in them. And, if all this cleaning didn't do the trick, then, the wallpaper
came down, and the paintbrushes came out... And every November, I wondered
if everyone's mother went to this same trouble before Christmas.
While we were busy with our own "Christmas Traditions"
at home, Dublin was also making her own preparations for yuletide. Growing
up, I couldn't wait until it was time to go into town during the Christmas
Season. Each year, my mam and dad would take us into town to visit Santa
Claus and then to do some shopping... We would always start off in Grafton
Street. There was nothing like the windows in Brown Thomas's and Switzers'
at Christmas time. We would line up around the block at Switzers', while
waiting to visit Santa. Once, we were done, we would walk back through
town, up O'Connell St. and into Henry St. where every trader in Dublin
City had set up a stall selling every kind of Christmas decorations and
every color tinsel you could imagine. Not to mention, the endless chants
of "Get your wrappin' paper, 5 for 50 the wrappin' paper". Ah,
how I miss hearing that. Long gone are the days I could get all my Christmas
shopping done for about 20 pounds. When we were done with the shopping,
we would always stop in to the Royal Dublin Hotel or the Gresham Hotel
for a big glass of coke and a bag of crisps. We always felt very posh and
grown-up sitting in the hotel. This was the best part of the day.
We always put our tree up twelve days before Christmas and took it
down twelve days after Christmas, another tradition I often wondered if
anyone else was as exact about. With the crisp new clean curtains up on
the sparkling windows, it was time to center the tree in the window. It
would take all night to put the lights on the tree and then cover the rest
of the tall woody plant in the best tinsel Dublin had to offer for a fiver.
After the tree was up and the star was on top, my mother would always put
the Christmas candle in the window, and hope to God, it didn't burn the
With all the presents wrapped and under the tree, the final countdown
would start. In the week leading up to the day, we would have the milkman,
the paper man, the vegetable man, the insurance man and the coal man all
stop up to the house on Saturday for their weekly money. Every year, my
parents would invite them in for a Christmas drink and a piece of Christmas
Pudding just to say thank you; even the bin men got a Christmas bonus,
another tradition that I'm sure wasn't part of any other household in all
When I got older, I joined the Church Folk group. This meant I could
now go to Midnight Mass. I always looked forward to Midnight Mass because
this was the only Mass during the year when both the junior and senior
folk groups and the Choir got to sing the Mass together.
On Christmas morning, we would be up at the crack of dawn. My mother
was never far behind us to put the turkey in the oven. The seven-week countdown
was finally over. We would race down the stairs to the sitting room, open
every present in sight and then run back up the stairs to my parents bedroom
to make them open their presents from us immediately, eyes open or not...
My mam would then put the big breakfast on, sausages, rashers, black
and white pudding, fried eggs, batch loaf and a pot of tea. After breakfast,
it was time for Mass again. Yes, I got to go twice. So we would all get
dressed up in the new threads and head off to Church. And every year my
father would ask my mother, upon putting her pound note in the collection
basket, if she had remembered to take her change out... Needless to say,
there were always the few strange looks and a few giggles heard after that...
After Mass, it was home again. My mother would set the Christmas
pudding on the table and put the kettle on and on and on. Not long after,
the neighbors and the relatives would file in one after the other. It was
a known fact over the years that everyone loved to come to our house on
Christmas morning. And there is the reason my mother made two Christmas
So, here we are ten years later. My mother, as always, has finished
her Christmas Puddings. And it would seem that the tradition of feverish
cleaning lives on, since just one week ago, my six-year-old nephew, upon
smelling bleach and any other cleaning materials being used, turned to
my mother and asked if the Christmas tree was up. I will be going home
this Christmas for the first time in a decade. I wonder how much has changed.
CARL HOGAN'S CHRISTMAS PUDDING RECIPE
• 4 oz Flour
• 1 tbsp Mixed Spice
• 1 tbsp Cinnamon
• 1 tbsp Nutmeg
• Pinch of Salt
• 8 oz White Bread Crumbs
• 8 oz Brown Sugar
• 8 oz Currants
• 8 oz Raisins
• 8 oz Sultanas
• 4 oz jarred Cherries
• 4 oz Almonds (Optional)
• 1/4 lb Margarine
• 2 Eggs
• 1/2 Pint Guinness
• Small Bottle of Whiskey like an airline miniature bottle)
Mix flour, salt and spices together. Add breadcrumbs, sugar and all
the fruit. Stir until well combined.
Melt margarine in a sauce pan. Cool slightly, add eggs, then whiskey
and Guinness. Make a well in the center of the fruit mix, pour in egg mixture.
Stir the whole thing together with a very big wooden spoon until your arm
hurts. Get up on a chair if you must for more leverage.
Here's where I stray from an exact recipe. After I have mixed everything
completely, I smell the mix to see what I think is missing or if is seems
dry. I usually end up adding more of each spice (one at a time). I add
a little more whiskey and the rest of the pint of Guinness (until the mix
is good and moist).
Cover the mix and leave it overnight to set. Then check it again
to make sure it smells good. Add more spices if you think it needs it.
I usually add more currants to achieve a dark color in the mix.
Now the hardest part: bring to a boil a very large pot of water with
a small plate placed within. Sit a bowl (top-down) onto greaseproof paper
and draw a circle. Cut out the circle and rub margarine on one side of
While the water's coming to a boil, grease bowl and fill with the
mixture to within 2-inches of the top. Flatten mixture in bowl. Place greaseproof
paper on top of the bowl. Then fold a pleat into the center of the paper
(about 1-inch pleat) and press the paper down onto the mix. Rub the edges
flat into the inside of the bowl.
Once this is completed, wrap the bowl twice with greaseproof paper.
Then tie some twine (very tightly around the top of rim of the bowl. Tie
the twine again from top to bottom of bowl (like you wrap ribbon on a gift).
Then wrap the bowl (very tightly) in two layers of tinfoil. Follow the
same technique with the twine again. The main aim is to make sure everything
is wrapped and tied tight enough, that no water will get inside the bowl
as the bowl needs to be completely covered by the water. (Don't forget
to make a long twine handle for taking the cake out of the pot of water.)
Once the water has boiled, sit the bowl into the pot, turn the heat
down to a simmer and let it cook for 8hrs.
• DECEMBER 17 - Christmas Party; 6 p.m.; at Janesville Senior Center.
• JANUARY 21 - General Membership Meeting; 7 p.m.; Janesville Senior
Our Christmas Party will begin with a Christmas Potluck Dinner so
plan to bring one of your tasty Christmas dishes for everyone to enjoy.
Also bring one dozen of your favorite Christmas cookies. During the evening
we will be entertained by the "Salty Strings." After dinner we
will have a White Elephant gift exchange. You may have some article, in
your home, that you have enjoyed for years and now, to make more space
in your home, you feel it is time for someone else to enjoy it. Bring it
to the White Elephant gift exchange. We look forward to everyone coming
to the Christmas Party.
At our January meeting Fred McCann will present a program on Ireland.
The Shamrock Club of Rock County has been cleaning up Hwy 81 west
of Beloit since 1991 when the Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation first initiated
the Adopt-A-Highway program. Dave Bickle, Mary Kennedy and Tom Kennedy
cleaned that highway for the last time in September. I want to thank the
members who have participated in this program over all of these years.
We have done a fine job.
May you all have a Happy and Blessed Christmas.
Dane County Shamrock Club's Christmas Banquet will be held Dec. 17
at the Coliseum Bar. Live Irish music, Cashel-Denehy Dancers, and a Christmas
carol sing-a-long are planned for the evening. There will be no Dec. 10th
board meeting. Our December meeting will be a general meeting - the Christmas
Milwaukee President's Message
Ladies and Gentlemen, Irish All;
Nollaig Shona duit.
The Holidays are just around the corner. Of course I refer not only
to Christmas and New Year, but to St. Patrick's Day as well.
A parade preview you say ... come see your Shamrock Club Color Guard
Pipes and Drums at the Menomonee Falls Christmas Parade Sunday, December
1 at 4:30 p.m. It is a great parade that starts just as dusk approaches.
Milwaukee Irish Arts finishes up its run of "DA" at the
Sunset on December 1, and will have a fundraiser following the show down
the street at O'Donoghues. The fundraiser is because MIA has been invited
to perform its production of "Last Epitaph of a Wise Man," a
one-act play written by local boy Denis Regan, at the Drama League of Ireland's
Festival in County Cavan. The Shamrock Club is proud to be one of the sponsors
of this trip.
With everything seeming to turn white there are still plenty of "Green"
things all around our city and state. The Prodigals are returning to the
ICHC; the Celtic Tenors will perform at the Riverside; Three Irish Tenors
in Green Bay and at Platteville, and probably even more tenors at our very
own Shamrock Club Christmas Party December 5 at the ICHC with entertainment
by Three Pints Gone. Remember to bring a treat to pass along... desserts
are always special for me, and I know there are some Irish taco recipes
out there somewhere.
And save those recipes for the Irish Cook Book, pass them on to Tim
O'Brien or Jean Cardwell.
Also join the Shamrock Club at the Milwaukee Museum on December 8,
in the European Village, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. We will have the Cashel
Dennehy Dancers joining us for our annual Irish Christmas celebration.
From my family to yours, have a blessed Christmas and a prosperous
South Central Shamrock Club
On Sunday, October 27, we gathered at Sacred Heart Church in Reedsburg
for 10:30 Mass, to honor all deceased and living members, for peace in
the world and unity in the Church. We had a wonderful turnout for our first
time doing such. Following our Mass all enjoyed a delicious brunch at the
Reedsburg Country Club.
On November 17, we held our meeting at the Farm Kitchen. Our 2002
Irishman of the Year spoke about the work of St. Vincent de Paul in the
Baraboo and Reedsburg area for the past fifty and thirty years respectfully.
Food items were collected for St. Vincent's food pantry.
Our annual Christmas Party will be once again held at the Reedsburg
Country Club on Sunday, December 15. All members will receive info by mail.
Hallamor Concert #5: Prodigals
The Saturday, December 7 performance of the Prodigals will be a return
for them to one of their favorite audiences. A recent survey by the Irish
Echo ranks the Prodigals as the #1 Irish music act surpassing the likes
of U2, Saw Doctors, Black 47, etc. This is indicative of their meteoric
rise in the past three years. "The Prodigals assert a distinct personality
of their own, one that reflects a passion for combining the elements of
traditional Irish music with a rhythmic wallop that borrows from a variety
of ancient and contemporary sources." (The Washington Post). It's
an explosive brand of Irish music.
Saturday, December 7, 2002 - 8 P.M.
$17 Advance, $19 At Door
Irish Cultural and Heritage
Center of Wisconsin
2133 W. Wisconsin Ave.
Opening Act: Reilly at 7 P.M.
Color Guard Year in Review
Our 2002 Season started on February 16 with a small performance for
the wedding of Joe Hughes and Bridget O'Brien. St. Patrick's Day came with
a cold and windy parade in Downtown Milwaukee on March 9 along with playing
at the Mass in the morning and at the Post-Parade Party. On March 16 we
were at New London or as it's called "New Dublin" for their St.
Patrick's Day Parade. March 17 took us to the South Side Irish Parade in
Chicago. On April 19 we did a performance at the wedding of Kristine and
Daryl Pluskota. On a cold and rainy April 27 the Color Guard, Pipes &
Drums headed for Pewaukee to march in the Loyalty Day Parade, in which
we took 2nd place Musical Unit.
May 19 we participated in the Burlington Chocolate Days Parade. On
May 26 Union Grove Cemetery for the Memorial Day Service followed by the
Menomonee Falls and Downtown Milwaukee Memorial Day parades on the 27.
June 1 was a nice spring day for the Milwaukee Highland games. June 9 saw
the group bring home the 1st place Marching Unit trophy at the Waubeka
Flag Day parade. June 30 we moved into the "meat & potatoes"
of our season with our first 4th of July parade in Reedsville, followed
by Menomonee Falls on the evening of the 3rd, Greenfield and New Berlin
on the 4th and East Troy on the 7th. On July 13 the group came home with
two awards, Best Appearing Unit and Best Drum & Bugle Corp at the South
July 20 saw the Color Guard Pipes and Drums return to the Port Washington
Fish Day Parade along with a small performance after. Then it was on to
South Milwaukee for the Heritage Days parade on the 27th and Random Lake
August 3 brought us to the Sheboygan Brat Day Parade and the Shamrock
Club Picnic on the 4th. Then came the Big Weekend at Irish Fest, August
16-18 with three parades, two performances and the Mass. The weekend also
included highlights like meeting Arch Bishop Timothy Dolan, playing at
the Tipperary Stage and the Currach Club award ceremony and at the Shamrock
Club Sales Booth. August 25 was Richfield Days and then another big weekend
for Labor Day. Friday the 30th at the opening ceremonies for the Wisconsin
Highland Games in Waukesha. St Francis on the 31st and back to the Highland
Games on September 1. We headed for Janesville on the 2nd for their parade.
We had a small break, time to rest up until October 4 when we did
Homestead High School's Homecoming Parade. We had the AOH Mass and Spaghetti
Dinner on the 5th. It was time once again to head up to Door County for
the Sister Bay Fall Festival Parade on the 19th. November 2 was time for
the Tartan Ball at the Tripoli Shrine Temple where we did a performance.
Believe it or not November 9 was the start of our Christmas Parades
where we began in New Berlin to kick off the season. November 19 took us
to West Allis, 24 to Waukesha and 30 to Grafton. Menomonee Falls on December
1 was the end of the Christmas season as well as our season. All this work
by the Color Guard, Pipes and Drums resulted in over $12,000 dollars for
the Shamrock Club for our 2002 parade season.
The Color Guard, Pipes and Drums are looking forward to 2003 with
anticipation. 2003 will see some new additions to the membership of the
unit and a new look, with the Color Guard retaining the Traditional Green
kilt and the Pipes and Drums in the Irish National Kilt.
Spring Courses in Celtic Studies
UWM's program in Celtic Studies offers a nice selection of courses
this coming spring. For example, a new course in Beginning Tin Whistle
is being offered on Wednesday evenings. The program also includes courses
in film, language, and literature. All are open to auditors, and free to
participants over 60.
Next summer, there are a number of study abroad options available,
for example, a three-week music and history program at the University of
Limerick, and our regular three-week language and culture course in Donegal.
Next summer's community tour provides participants with the opportunity
to explore the Irish and Scottish connections with visits to the Sligo
of William Butler Yeats, the Seven Wonders of Fore, Glens of Antrim, Iona
of St. Columba, Lough Ness, Culloden Battlefield, and the historic cities
of Dublin and Edinburgh.
For further information, contact the Center for Celtic Studies at
(414) 229-6520, or email@example.com.
February 14, 2003
"HEARTS ON THE AVENUE"
With Guest Artist
Bagpiper Rob McWilliam
Irish Cultural and Heritage Center
2133 W Wisconsin Avenue
Telephone: (414) 345-8800
Concert begins at 7 pm. Reception to follow in Parlor B. Tickets:
Reserved seats in advance $10. At the door $12. Doors open at 6 pm.
Dennis Janzer is well known to Milwaukee music lovers. He was the
organist for the Grand Avenue Congregational Church for many years. Dennis
established the Arts on the Avenue Concert Series which included presentations
for St. Patrick's Day, Fourth of July, Halloween and the Messiah Sing-Along.
Elaborate stage decorations complemented the rousing 4000-pipe Kimball
organ, and frequent guest musicians added to the musical wonders.
In 2000 Dennis Janzer relocated to Florida and the void he left has
not been filled. For St. Valentine's Day in 2003 we will be thrilled to
once again enjoy his music on the Kimball organ with guest musicians Rob
McWilliam and others.
Tickets will be available at the ICHC, beginning December 1st at
the Messiah Sing-Along.
Celtic Women International
FIRST FRIDAY LECTURE SERIES
December 6, 2002
Celtic Christmas Celebration
In addition to our usual Celtic Christmas celebration, we have a
very generous offer from one of our CWI members living in Savannah Georgia.
Maggie Keenan has a business there called "Maggie's Irish Breads"
Maggie will send us a package of Christmas cookies for the December meeting.
It is our custom for everyone to bring a Christmas treat to that meeting,
so please plan on your contribution to go along with Maggie's donation.
Also, anyone with a little craft business is invited to bring a few
items for purchase as Christmas gifts. Please let me know who will do this
so we have adequate table space prepared for you and your wares.
As always, the public is invited to CWI lectures, men and women,
members and non-members alike. Admission is $5 per person. You may also
enjoy a cup of tea and biscuits while soaking up Celtic culture. We hope
to see you the ICHC, 2133 W. Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee. 5:30 p.m. - 7
We are looking for suggestions for the future lectures. Please call
or write or let us know at any lecture. Thank you!
Tom Sweeney for
St. Patrick's Night
Tom Sweeney, the great Irish balladeer and storyteller, will headline
the annual Milwaukee Irish Arts St. Patrick's Night Gala on Monday, March
17, at the Milwaukee Athletic Club. Known for his fine singing voice, brilliant
comic storytelling, and his great collection of the better Irish ballads,
Tom, grandson of the great Sarah Makem, is familiar to Wisconsinites for
his work with Barley Bree. This will be Tom's only appearance in the midwest
during the Green Season. Early reservations are advisable! Phone (414)
229-2608 for information.
Nollaig Shona Duit agus
Athbhliain faoi mhaise duit!
"Happy Christmas and a
Prosperous New Year!"
SHARE YOUR FAVORITE RECIPES!
We're looking for family secrets, Irish specialties (and if you have
a tale to go along with it, all the better!) for our fund raiser: Shamrock
Club Recipe Book. To contribute send Name of Recipe, Ingredients, and Directions;
and of course, your name and any appropriate stories. Send to: Jean Cardwell;
21445 W. Oakcrest Dr.; New Berlin, WI 53146.
IRISH COFFEE - EGGNOG PUNCH
• 2 quarts refrigerated eggnog
• 1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
• 3 tb instant coffee granules
• 1/2 ts cinnamon
• 1/2 ts nutmeg
• 1 cup Irish whiskey
• 1 quart coffee ice cream
• sweetened whipped cream
• freshly grated nutmeg
Method: Combine eggnog, brown sugar, instant coffee and spices in
a large mixing bowl; beat at low speed with an electric mixer until sugar
dissolves. Chill 15 minutes; stir until coffee granules dissolve and stir
in whiskey. Cover and chill at least 1 hour. Pour into punch bowl or individual
cups, leaving enough room for ice cream. Spoon in ice cream. Garnish each
serving as desired with whipped cream and nutmeg.
IRISH SODA SCONES
• 3 cups plain flour
• 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
• 1 cup of buttermilk
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
Method: Stir together dry ingredients and mix lightly with hands.
Make a hollow in the centre and add enough buttermilk to make a soft dough.
Turn onto floured board and knead quickly and lightly until the dough is
free from cracks. Roll out until 1/2cm thick and cut into rounds. Place
on greased oven sheet and bake at 200 degrees celcius for 15 minutes.
IRISH CHRISTMAS CAKE
(Note: 1 cup = 5 ounces = 140 grams)
• 1 lb Citron
• 1/2 lb candied orange and lemon peel, combined
• 1/2 lb dates
• 1/2 lb glace cherries
• 3 3/4 cup raisins
• 2 3/4 cup currants
• 1 lb almonds and pecans, combined, coarsely chopped
• 3/4 cup brandy
• 1 lb brown sugar
• 1 lb butter, softened
• 15 egg yolks, beaten until thick
• 4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
• 1 tbsp cinnamon
• 1 ttsp cloves
• 1 tbsp allspice
• 1 tbsp nutmeg
• 1 1/2 tsp mace
• 15 egg whites, beaten until stiff
Method: Chop citron, orange and lemon peels, dates and cherries.
Keep a few cherry halves for decoration. Add raisins, currants, almonds,
and pecans. Keep a few nut halves for decoration. Pour on the brandy and
let fruits marinate while preparing remaining ingredients.
Cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add beaten egg yolks
gradually, beating constantly. Keep 1 cup of flour aside and sift remaining
3 cups of flour with spices. Add sifted ingredients gradually to butter
mixture, beating well after each addition. Fold in egg whites carefully.
Sprinkle fruits with cup of flour held aside and mix well. Fold fruits
Oil and line a 12-inch springform pan with waxed paper. Place batter
in pan and bake in 300 degree F. oven with pans of hot water in bottom
of the oven, for 2 1/2 hours. Cool the cake and wrap in cheesecloth that
has been soaked in brandy. Place in airtight container and store until
ready to use. Every 3 weeks, re-dip the cheesecloth wrapper in brandy.
Before decorating, glaze the top and sides of the cake with either
apricot jam, thinned with a little water or red currant jam. This will
help the marzipan (almond paste) to adhere to the cake sides.
eight 2.5 inch pie shells
• 1.5 cups mincemeat
• half pound beef suet, chopped fine
• 4 cups seedless raisins
• 2 cups dried currants
• 1 cup coarsely chopped almonds
• half cup coarsely chopped candied citron
• half cup coarsely chopped dried figs
• half cup coarsely chopped candied orange peel
• half cup coarsely chopped candied lemon peel
• 4 cups coarsely chopped, peeled and cored cooking apples
• 1 and a quarter cups sugar
• 1 tsp nutmeg
• 1 tsp allspice
• 1 tsp cinnamon
• half tsp cloves
• 2 and a half cups brandy
• 1 cup dry sherry
Method: Put suet, raisins, currants, almonds, citron, figs, orange
peel, lemon peel, apples, sugar, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, and cloves
in large bowl and mix together. Pour in brandy and sherry and stir until
all ingredients are moist. Cover bowl and set aside in cool place (but
not in refrigerator) for at least 3 weeks. Check mixture every week and
replace absorbed alcohol with more brandy and sherry, about a quarter cup
at a time. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Put around 3 tablespoons of mincemeat
into each pastry shell and cover with sheet of pastry. Put pies on a baking
tray and bake 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 F and bake another 20 minutes
or until crust is golden brown. Serve warm with brandy butter.
This recipe yields 8 glasses
• 1 bottle red wine
• half cup sugar
• half cup water
• 15 whole cloves
• 4 sticks cinnamon
• 2 medium lemons
• 1 large orange
Method: Grate orange and lemons. Combine sugar, spices, and water
in saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add
wine. Slice fruit and add to wine. Cover and place on low heat for 40 minutes,
stirring occasionally. Never let the wine come to the boil. This destroys
the flavour as well as burning off the alcohol! Strain and discard spices
and peel. Serve warm in wine glasses.
• 4 tablespoons softened, unsalted butter
• half cup of castor sugar
• 3 tablespoons brandy
• Half teaspoon vanilla extract
Method: Put all ingredients into a bowl. Beat with an electric beater
until smooth and well integrated. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours until
firm. Serve alongside plum pudding!
Other Irish Christmas Traditions
Ireland, like most countries, has a number of Christmas traditions
that are all of its own. Many of these customs have their roots in the
time when the Gaelic culture and religion of the country were being supressed
and it is perhaps because of that they have survived into modern times.
THE CANDLE IN THE WINDOW
The placing of a lighted candle in the window of a house on Christmas
eve is still practised today. It has a number of purposes but primarily
it was a symbol of welcome to Mary and Joseph as they travelled looking
for shelter. The candle also indicated a safe place for priests to perform
mass as, during Penal Times this was not allowed. A further element of
the tradition is that the candle should be lit by the youngest member of
the household and only be extinguished by a girl bearing the name "Mary".
THE LADEN TABLE
After evening meal on Christmas eve the kitchen table was again set
and on it were placed a loaf of bread filled with caraway seeds and raisins,
a pitcher of milk and a large lit candle. The door to the house was left
unlatched so that Mary and Joseph, or any wandering traveller, could avail
of the welcome.
Christmas in Ireland cannot be discussed without reference to the
Wren Boys on St. Stephen's Day. This practice of antiquity predates St.
Patrick. In ancient times, a wren was beaten out of the bushes and its
body hung on a holly bush. The killing of a bird is no longer tolerated
but the door to door visits continue. Participants dress up in homemade
costumes reminiscent of North American Halloween. The song they yell from
house to house is called:
The wren, the wren,
the king of all birds
Most people treat the Wren Boys to porter and pudding. Any young
people in the house are cajoled to continue on with the gang until there
is a decent assembly of young folk being followed by most of the children
in the neighborhood. They will end up in some neighbor's house and if someone
produces a fiddle, or a guitar, the party begins.
The placing of a ring of Holly on doors originated in Ireland as
Holly was one of the main plants that flourished at Christmas time and
which gave the poor ample means with which to decorate their dwellings.
All decorations are traditionally taken down on Little Christmas (January
6th), the Feast of Epiphany and it is considered to be bad luck to take
them down beforehand.
The History of the Christmas Carol
"The Twelve Days of Christmas"
In Ireland and England during the centuries when the Catholic religion
was suppressed and it was dangerous to practice one's faith in public or
private, "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was written as a "catechism
song" to help young Catholics learn the beliefs of their faith. It
was created as a memory aid when being caught with anything in writing
indicating adherence to the Catholic faith could not only get you imprisoned,
it could get you hanged. The song's gifts represent hidden meanings to
reference the teachings of the faith. The "true love" mentioned
in the song doesn't refer to an earthly suitor, it refers to God himself.
The "me" who receives the presents refers to every baptized person.
• A Partridge in a pear tree = Jesus Christ, the son of God.
• Two turtle doves = The Old and New Testaments
• Three french hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the theological virtues.
• Four calling birds = The four Gospels and/or the four Evangelists.
• Five golden rings = The first five books of the Old Testament (The
• Six geese a-laying = Six days of creation.
• Seven swans a swimming = The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the
• Eight maids a-milking = The eight Beatitudes.
• Nine ladies dancing = The nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit (sometimes
also listed as the nine classifications of angels).
• Ten lords a-leaping = The Ten Commandments.
• Eleven pipers pipering = The eleven faithful apostles.
• Twelve drummers drumming = The twelve points of doctrine in the
Give a Gift
Since The Shamrock Club of Wisconsin is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization,
you can add them to your Christmas list or year end donation list. If you
plan to do any year end donations, feel free to include the Shamrock Club.
You can earmark your donation for the Club as a whole or a specific activity
(i.e. Scholarship fund, St. Patrick's Day Mass or Parade, Easter Rising
Mass, Post Parade Party, Colorguard, Honorees annual dinner, Volunteer
Party, Picnic, or Golf Outing). Remember, all donations are fully tax-deductible.
Nominations for Irish Honorees Needed
Do you have someone in mind who you would like to see honored by
the Shamrock Club? Please submit your written nominations for Irishman,
Irish Rose and Parade Marshal(s) for the March, 2003 season. Nominations
are due by the start of the January 29, 2003 Shamrock Club board meeting.
Send nominations to: Shamrock Club of Wisconsin, 2133 West Wisconsin Avenue,
Milwaukee, WI 53233.
Shamrock Club at
Milwaukee Museum December 8
The Shamrock Club will be holding another Irish Christmas Celebration
at the Milwaukee Museum on Sunday, December 8, 2002. The Cashel-Dennehy
Dancers will join craftspeople at the Irish Cottage in the European Village
from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Museum admittance required to enter. For more
information, call Muriel Crowley at 262-782-4323.
At the November 7, 2002 general membership meeting, a motion was
made and passed to defer the decision to change the Shamrock Club Color
Guard, Pipes and Drums uniforms until the general membership is provided
with more information.
Watch for the details in the January Emerald Reflections.
If you chaired a Shamrock Club event during 2002, please get your
list of volunteers to Sharon Murphy as soon as possible. Your list should
contain the names and addresses of the volunteer, including each family
member that volunteered. Please send the information to firstname.lastname@example.org
or mail to: 8320 W. Bluemound Rd., Suite 213, Milwaukee, WI 53213.
If you have any questions, feel free to call Sharon at (414) 453-8655.
We want to acknowledge every volunteer for all the hard work and
the time and talents they have shared.
Milwaukee Irish Arts
To Perform in Ireland
Milwaukee Irish Arts, our local presenters of Irish theater, have
been invited to perform at the All-Ireland One-Act Drama Festival in Virginia,
Each year, a group from outside of Ireland is invited to perform
alongside the 12 Irish competing companies, but outside of the competition.
This showcase group normally comes from England or Scotland. Milwaukee
Irish Arts will be the first American-based group to be given the honor.
The festival takes place December 6-8, and Milwaukee Irish Arts will
be performing "Last Epitaph of a Wise Man" by Milwaukee playwright
Set against the background of the Civil War-era race riots in New
York, the play premiered at Milwaukee Irish Fest 2002. It addresses issues
of racism and national identity, which resonate in the Ireland of today,
where these issues are currently on the front burner. This, and the excellent
production at Irish Fest, were part of the reason for its selection by
the festival committee.
Milwaukee Irish Arts are proud to represent our community at this
unique event, and very grateful to the Shamrock Club for a very generous
contribution towards the cost of taking the production to Ireland.
The Think and Drink Book Club
There's a new Irish book club in town! It meets monthly, usually
the 3rd Wednesday, at Paddy's Pub, 2339 N. Murray Ave. The Think and Drink
Book Club involves a wine tasting beginning at 7 p.m., followed by a friendly
discussion of an Irish book at 8 p.m. So far, the club has discussed "By
the Lake," by John McGahern, and "Are You Somebody?," by
Nuala O'Faolain. There will be no reading in December, but for the Spring
program, call Paddy at (414) 223-3496, or Meg at (414) 258-9349.
Bradley Center Needs You
For the past 14 years the Milwaukee Shamrock Club has earned more
than $92,000. This money has enabled the club to be a lot more visible
and able to contribute to such events as the Culture Areas at Irish Fest
and Holiday Folk Fair, St. Patrick's Church restoration and many other
things. The Bradley Center offers us an opportunity to be a part of community
service and at the same time let the public know who we are.
The duties at the Bradley Center are varied, sometimes we kind of
stand around and visit and other times we work hard and fast, like at the
quarter or half time of a Bucks game or other popular event. The job is
really not hard or difficult when all the stations are covered by willing
happy volunteers. The duties of the volunteers at an event include:
1st SHIFT: come one hour before event and help set up the booth.
We must count the beer cups, soda cups, hot dogs, etc. and set up the stations
with candy and boxed popcorn. The cash chairman sees that all the drawers
have money and keep counter people in change, etc.
2nd SHIFT: Come in at game time and start to work at their readied
station. At the end of the event when the first shift leaves, they help
count and pack up the left over inventory and clean the booth for the next
Each event needs 18 people. Six are at the counter to take care of
the customers. Two people in the kitchen keep the brats cooking, wrap them
and put them into the warming ovens. Two people are needed for the nacho
preparation and to place them in the warm ovens. Three people pour beer
and three work on soda. One person works the popcorn machine and the one
person is in charge of cash. Cash person comes early and stays until the
Bradley Center bank people come to pick it up. The stand manager comes
early and stays late and tries to keep everything running smoothly. When
you report into the booth you are generally given your choice of job.
Volunteers are assigned to teams and when possible so are car pools.
We only get a limited number of parking passes. You will be sent a list
of your team members and times and dates of your events. We usually are
given about 20 events and if we can get three or more teams, each would
work only six or less events. We need "on call alternates" who
would be able to come in with a few days notice or maybe even hours notice
in an emergency. This doesn't happen very often.
The Bradley Center is really not a difficult fund raiser. We have
no investment and work for an event that, when we have a fully staffed
crew, we can watch for 15 minutes if we want to.
All interested in becoming managers, please call me. As of this printing,
I don't know the dates of the training.
To be successful, we really need you and it's an enjoyable evening
with nice people that you might not meet otherwise. Talk to the people
who have been doing this for years, you will know them by the smiles on
their faces. Please fill out the form below and mail it to me or give it
to me at the December Party.
- Cate Harris (414) 321-5153
RTE Irish News Items
90% BELIEVE CHURCH DAMAGED BY ABUSE
More than 90% of people in Ireland believe the Roman Catholic Church
has been damaged as a result of revelations of clerical sex abuse of children,
according to a Poll published in November. The survey, of over 1,000 mostly
Catholic adults, revealed that more than a third of those questioned said
allegations of widespread child abuse by priests had affected their religious
practices in terms of churchgoing and prayer. The survey which was carried
out by researchers at Dublin's Royal College of Surgeons, comes as the
Government faces pressure to order a full statutory inquiry into allegations
of clerical abuse in cases stretching back over more than 40 years.
Michael Breen, a member of the Irish Bishops' Committee on Child
Protection, which commissioned the poll as part of a wider survey, described
it as "a very useful piece of work". "I think people are
rightly appalled by the way the church has handled the issue and rightly
dissatisfied, but before we can begin to redress a wrong, we have to know
the extent of what needs to be done and this is part of our effort in that
direction," he said.
More than three in four people believed the Church's response to
the sex abuse was inadequate. And 92% of those questioned said a priest
who abused children should not return to ministry. On the issue of clerical
celibacy, almost three-quarters told researchers they were opposed to the
requirement, with 17% in favour. However, faith in God remained high overall,
with most people seeing the church and priests as better or the same as
in the past. Mass attendance by practising Catholics was recorded in the
poll at 63%, a 2% drop from a 1997 survey. Breen said he was "very
encouraged" that religious practices had not been overly affected.
Faith was about a relationship with God rather than an institution, he
MARCHING SEASON COSTS POLICE £18m
The Chief Constable of the North's Police Service, Hugh Orde, has
said this year's Loyalist marching season cost police £18m. He told
the Policing Board in Belfast that £6.5m was spent putting officers
and equipment along the routes of highly charged parades. The remainder
of the money went towards policing the sectarian peace lines and general
law and order duties. The Police Board earlier received a report from Britain's
Inspector of Constabulary which is believed to be highly critical of the
LECTURER EJECTED FROM SUPREME COURT
The lecturer, Denis Riordan, was removed from the Supreme Court after
telling the three presiding judges that they were liars. The court was
hearing an application by the State for costs against Mr Riordan, a lecturer
at the Limerick Institute of Technology. On 19 October last, Mr Riordan
failed to persuade the Supreme Court to set aside previous decisions it
had made against him. Mr Riordan repeatedly called the court corrupt and
said it was fraudulent to award costs against him. He said there should
be no costs. When Mr Riordan continued to abuse the court the presiding
judge, Mr Justice John Murray, asked the Gardaí to remove him. The
judge told the lecturer that he was indulging in "unacceptable vulgar
abuse of the court". After his removal from the court, costs were
awarded against Mr Riordan to the State.
MINISTER URGES BEEF INDUSTRY TO RE-EXAMINE ITSELF
The Minister for Agriculture, Joe Walsh, has called for a serious
re-examination of the beef industry to ensure its future. Mr. Walsh welcomed
the recent decision to suspend the dispute between beef farmers and meat
processors over cattle prices. However, Minister Walsh said any sector
which was subject to ongoing disputes needed to seriously examine itself.
Speaking in Limerick at the annual conference of co-op umbrella group ICOS,
the Minister said trust must be restored between partners in the beef industry.
He called on both sides to produce beef to the quality demanded by the
market and he said processors should show a greater degree of transparency
about beef prices. The Minister also said it would be extremely unwise
for Irish exporters not to pull out all the stops and take the opportunity
to resume sales to Egypt. He said the authorities in Cairo had demonstrated
faith in Irish beef and EU export subsidies to Egypt had increased by 30%
last month. Mr Walsh said the industry should work to ensure that no further
risks are taken with valuable markets by interrupting supplies, and that
markets which had been re-opened to Ireland were not simply left to be
supplied by our competitors. The Minister also said that major changes
to the Common Agricultural Policy were now unlikely over the next five
years. EC Commissioner, Franz Fischler, announced major reform proposals
in July, but some of them will not go ahead because of the agreement worked
out by European governments last month about funding for new countries,
which are about to join the community. Minister Walsh said that while discussions
on the reforms would continue, there was unlikely to be sufficient support
among member states for any significant reform before 2007.
MAJOR REVIEW OF TOURISM INDUSTRY ANNOUNCED
The Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, John O'Donoghue, has announced
a major review of the tourism industry in Ireland. The Minister said the
industry was operating in a more turbulent environment now, one which had
impacted on visitor numbers. He also pointed to growing concerns about
the price and quality of the product on offer as one reason behind the
decision to carry out the review. Mr O'Donoghue said that the industry
needed to sharpen its competitive edge and become more innovative. An external
consultancy group will carry out the review, which will be completed in
spring of next year. Minister O'Donoghue added that he expected the review
to result in both institutional and structural change.
St. Patrick's Help Fund
St. Patrick's Help Fund needs non-perishable foods, coats for adult
men and for children, blankets, any games for ages 4-11 for after school
programs, warm winter clothing for all ages. Please place in container
at each meeting. Turkeys will be accepted on Monday, Dec. 23 from 9-12.
Questions? Call Katy Voss (414) 352-6479.
NOTE: Please send your dues to your Membership Chairperson in your
chapter. All names and addresses are listed in Emerald Reflections.
MILWAUKEE - Patrick J. Doherty; Rosemary Krause; J.D. Rizzo and Ann
M. Maguire; Kevin Monteith; Mary Lou Stauber; Deborah J. Zinke.
MEMBERSHIP REPORT MILWAUKEE CHAPTER:
• September: 47 memberships up for renewal, 32 paid, 5 dropped for
• October: 37 memberships up for renewal, 26 paid, 1 due.
• November: 28 memberships up for renewal, 3 paid, 25 due.
Thank you to everyone who attended the Wisconsin-Penn State Game.
We had a great time even if Wisconsin did not win. Watch for information
for next year: a Wisconsin game and Notre Dame game at South Bend. Have
a great Christmas and Happy New Year.