TYRONE poet John Montague, in his poem Christmas Morning, captures a lot of our hereditary attachment to the nice and cozy glow of this holy season when he describes the individuals from his homeplace of Garvaghey, travelling to the Christmas morning Mass.
The opening traces sketch out a picture of his ancestral clan shifting from the hills and townlands by foot, “Like shepherd and angel/ On that first morning”, to the:
”Grey nation chapel
Where a gas-lamp hisses
To mild the crib
Under the cross-beam’s
Damp flaked message:
GLORIA IN EXCELSIS”
As they make the journey on that darkish, chilly morning, “Along cattle paths/Crusted with ice”, Montague references some earthly options which maintain them firm, the “rimed hawthorn, Gothic evergreen”, underlining their closeness to the panorama.
Monaghan’s son, Patrick Kavanagh, additionally locations a lot emphasis on nature in his well-known work A Christmas Childhood the place he recollects with nice readability, the magic of his sixth Christmas.
Filled with nostalgia for his rural upbringing, he reveals his consciousness and appreciation of the pure world, writing, “A water-hen screeched within the lavatory,” as “Mass-going ft/Crunched the wafer-ice on the pot-holes”.
He additionally makes use of the contours of that world to create Christmas imagery across the delivery of Jesus when his childhood self, seemed up as “Three whin bushes rode throughout/The horizon – the Three Wise Kings”.
During the Christmas interval, as with a lot of our non secular festivals, strands of the pure world are woven into the celebrations and surrounding symbolism.
We see this in using ornamental timber, berries, holly and different greenery, whereas animals and birds such because the robin and wren adorn most of the festive playing cards.
The wren’s curious affiliation with the season comes from tales of betrayal, together with the hen’s divulging of Christ’s whereabouts to Roman troopers within the Garden of Gethsemane and for revealing Saint Stephen’s hiding place to his killers with its loud track.
For this alleged treachery in direction of the martyred Saint, the longstanding custom of the rhyming ‘Wrenboys’ started, which concerned teams of males and boys searching a wren to loss of life on Stephen’s Day earlier than parading it on a holly bush by way of villages chanting scornful verses which different in accordance with locality, many together with the traces,
“The wran, the wran, the king of all birds
On Saint Stephen’s Day he was caught within the furze
So up with the kettle down with the pan
Give us a penny to bury the wran.”
Although the savage observe of killing the hen now not takes place, many teams nonetheless carry out the annual ritual utilizing pretend birds on Lá Dreoilín, wren day.
The ‘Spideog Mhuire’, or Mary’s Robin because it’s identified in Ireland’s southwest, has robust hyperlinks to the delivery of Jesus, with legend telling us the hen got here to Mary’s assist whereas fleeing to Egypt.
As she bled from thorn and bramble wounds the robin adopted her, overlaying the blood with leaves and particles to depart no hint for Herod’s males. Legend additionally says the robin saved the secure fireplace alight for the infant Jesus, flapping its wings to maintain air circulating.
I’m positive, as Mass goers from each the Montague and Kavanagh poems emerged from the chapel to their Christmas daybreak, they have been greeted by the songs of each wren and robin from chilly, naked hedgerows close by.
They may additionally have had traces from the well-known 1719 carol Joy to the World ringing of their ears:
“While fields and floods,
Rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding pleasure,
Let earth obtain her King…
Let each coronary heart put together Him room
And Heaven and nature sing.”
Nollaig Shona daoibh go léir. Happy Christmas all.