The following piece is from a recently published book Órchiste Nollag, a collections of Christmas stories and traditions from West Kerry, collected and edited by Máirín Uí Shé. The book is published by Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne.

An Nollaig ar an mBlascaod le Lís Ní Chatháin Uí Laoithe

DISTRICT DIRECTOR: Micheal O Coileain / EDITOR: Micheal O Coileain

An Nollaig ar an mBlascaod le Lís Ní Chatháin Uí Laoithe

 ón leabhar Óchiste  Nollag –  Máirin Uí  Shé a thiomsaigh agus a chuir in eagar.

The following piece is from a recently published book Órchiste Nollag, a collections of Christmas stories and traditions from West Kerry,  collected and edited by Máirín Uí Shé. The book is published by Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne.

These memories of Christmas from the Great Blasket Island are from the writings of Lis Ní Chatháin Ui Laoithe, who grew up on the Island.

She writes from the perspective of a child observing the traditions of the Island and the excitement associated with the festive season.

A picture of the Great Blasket under snow taken from Dún Chaoin

Ó an scóp a bhíodh ar a raibh ann aimsir na Nollar Beannaithe. Bhíodh meidhreacht agus draíocht san aer. Bhíodh soilse agus coinnle again. Bhíodh na naomhóga ag déanamh amach ar an bhfaill ag du ar aifreann. Glór na maidí rámha agus an glioscarnach faoi sholas na gealaí. A Dhia thógfadh sé na mairbh as an uaigh! Bhiodh caora marbh I ngach aon tigh agus í crochta sa chistin. B’fhin í an turcaí a bhíodh again. Bhíodh putóga déanta ag na mná agus an dúthracht a chaithidís lena ndéanamh, an siobhán bhreac agus an phingín a thugaidís ar na putóga sin. Bhíodh boladh brae uathu nuair a róstaí iad maidin Lae Nollag.

The magic of Christmas on the Island. Watching the men rowing the Naomhoga in the early morning moon light as they crossed to Dun Chaoin for mass. How every house on the island killed a sheep for Christmas dinner and had it hanging in the kitchen – that was their turkeyand they also made pies.

Gach éinne ag fanacht leis an bpóist roimh Nollaig ag súil le litir ona ngaolta I Meiriceá nó a bhí in aimsir suas faoin dtír, ag súil le cúpla punt a chabhródh lón na Nollag a cheannach. Ansin chaití dul on Daingean chun lón na Nollag a bhailiú isteach. Dheinidís lá mór don lá san.

Cad é cairdeas agus beannú. Na héinne ag uíochtaint Nollaig Mheidhreach dá chéile. Cad é bhiliú! Cístí agus subh agus bairíní breaca móra rúineálta, deirimse leat go mbíodh ithe iontu. Trasna go Dún Chaoin ar dtúis I naomhóg ar adhmhaidean. Séal bruit casta timpeall ag na mná orthu fein ón bhfuacht. Gheibhtí asal nó capall agus cairt i nDún Chaoin ar iasacht ó ghaolta nó ó dhaoine muinteartha a thugadh ‘on Daingean iad. Thugtaí dhá phaca leo  –  paca bán plúir a bhíodh nite go maith acu agus paca garbh chun an bailiú a thabhairt abhaile. Isteach sa phaca bán a théadh na sólásití milse. Théádh na coinnle agus an deoch sa phaca garbh. Bhíodh draíocht ag baint leis an tnúth seo go léir.

The arrival of a letter from relatives in America was eagerly anticipated as the money therein would cover the costs of Christmas. Buying the provisions was a big day when the Islanders went to Dingle to buy food, drink, candles and items – all taken home in old reused flour bags. They crossed to Dun Chaoin by boat and borrowed horses and carts from friends or relatives there to make the journey to town.

Oíche Nollag bhíodh langa i gcomhair an dinnéir ins gach tigh le hanlann bán – praiseach – le hoiniúin nó geir leáite.  Thosnaíóodh an Nollaig aimsir dinnéir mean lae Oíche Nollag. Thagadh am lasta na gcoinnle taréis na Corónach. Bhímís inár mbeirteanna ansan ag dul ó thig go tigh ag féachaint ar na soilse agus an aoibhneas agus ag féachaintcén tigh ba dheise a bhí ann.

Gan dabht thagadh Saintí go dtí gach leanbh san Oileáin agus a stoca crochta acu ar an iarta. An simné glanta agus an fanacht fada leis na féiríní… Bhíodh éinín Saintí, sé sin an ghlasóg shráide sa bhuaile ag tabhairt gach cuntas go dtí Saintí faoi iompar na bpáistí. Deireadh na seandaoine go mbeadh ár stocaí folamh muna mbeimís go maith. Gheibhmís úll, oráiste, cúpla milseán agus ribín nua b’fhéidir  nó peidhre stocaí agus bréagán beag – fliúit páipéir b’fhéidir. Ó an t-áthas agus na sceitimíní agus sinn go léir chomh sásta le diúc.

They ate Ling with onions and white sauce on Christmas Eve and after dinner, having said the rosary, they lit the Christmas candle. The children would then walk through the village on the Island looking at the decorations and candles in all the homes. Santy came to all the Island children – they cleaned chimneys in preparation and hung stockings by the fire place. Santy’s little bird (Pied Wagtail), kept an account of children’s behaviour and relayed messages to the Big Man. The gifts included apples, oranges, some sweets,  maybe a ribbon for girls hair or a pair of stockings. They also got small toys such as  paper flutes. They were content and happy with their gifts.

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