When I think of holiday travel I think of the three times our family went to Ireland to spend Christmas with my mother’s family.
The first time we went to Ireland was in 1962. My mother traveled over with us and my father followed. I remember my mother telling me that my Grandparents drove down to Shannon airport to meet us and she handed my brother and me to them while she went to find the luggage. Those were the days when a velvet cable would separate people arriving from the people meeting them. This was the first time I had seen my Grandfather. My Grandmother had come over for my first birthday. It was the first time they had seen my brother.
Suddenly I was introduced to three generations of aunts, uncles and cousins. My mother was the only one from her family who left Ireland. On Christmas Eve at the party my Grandparents gave every year I wore a white fluffy shrug and a light blue velvet dress. I know this because my uncle was very much into photography and I have a picture.
We next traveled to Ireland for Christmas in 1978 and by this time the family had really grown. All my mother’s siblings had married and had children. I was the eldest of twelve grandchildren. There was laughter around the Christmas table when I said to my Grandparents “see what you are responsible for.”
This was the first time we had gone to St. Patrick’s Cathedral to hear the caroling service on Christmas Eve. My parents, brother and I went to the service. St. Patrick’s is an ancient cathedral and there were flags hanging from the ceiling. The acoustics of the organ and the voices of the choir in the cathedral were angelic. There were fresh garlands and decorations which included candles all around St. Patrick’s. Just being in St. Patrick’s on a night like Christmas Eve with the music and the sound of all those voices, the simplistic decorations and peaceful feelings is what Christmas is all about.
We went to Christ Church to ring in the new year. My Grandparents had gone to bed by the time we got home. It was cold and the house was dark. We went into the kitchen which was always toasty warm because my Grandmother had an Aga. We got a drink and then quietly went up to bed cuddling down into our beds with the thick feather filled duvets on top of us. My room was special because the ceiling had been covered in dark navy blue wallpaper that had stars on it so I could stare up at the stars at night before I went to sleep.
The last Christmas I spent in Dublin was in 1988. The family was going through the next set of changes as the grandchildren were now getting married and having children. This was the first Christmas I had been in Dublin since the death of both my Grandparents. So this trip for me included a visit to Deansgrange Cemetery to pay my respects.
Since we could not stay with any of my mother’s siblings because all their children and partners had come home, we stayed at the home of a cousin of my mother’s. She and her family had gone away for Christmas. This was exciting for me as the house was on the same street as the home of Chris DeBurgh the singer. I saw him walking down the street with his family.
1988 was the millennium celebration for the city of Dublin so my uncle decided to hold a millennium party on New Year’s Eve. It was an intimate family gathering for about fifty. The party was a formal affair and my father got his tuxedo out that he used to wear to formal functions when he attended Trinity College. It still fit and just needed to be cleaned.
We traveled on a dark night up into the Wicklow mountains to where my uncle and his family lived. It was dark and cold but as soon as we walked into the house it was warm and welcoming. There was a large Yule log in the fireplace. Everyone brought a little something for the dinner.
There were prizes for the youngest member of the family (the son of a cousin who was born that year), the one who travelled the farthest (a cousin who had come home from Australia) and the oldest (the husband of my grandfather’s sister). One grand uncle had written a poem and a few plays that had been written by my grandfather and great grandfather were performed.
A cousin, who is a professional photographer, took pictures of all the family groups that were at the party as well as one large group shot. These were put in an album and he gave a copy to each family group.
I have one treasure from this magical night. I put a white bed sheet on the dining table after dinner and had everyone sign it in pencil. Then I embroidered everything they put on the sheet. People got really creative and did doodles, drew pictures, wrote poems and funny sayings. It still makes me smile when I look at it today.
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