For three years now a group of us has gathered for a couple of weeks in mid-December at the Irish Arts Center in the storied Hell’s Kitchen area of Manhattan to celebrate an Irish Christmas. It has been the best and most joyful of times with the intimate venue transformed nightly by the spirit of performers and audience into a space reminiscent of a cozy living room in an Irish or Irish American home where all are welcome.

There’s something magical about the dark days of winter in Northern Europe, when the earth goes into a deep transformative, regenerative hibernation with only the magical evergreens defying the forces of nature. The midwinter solstice has always been culturally a time for reflection on the big issues we all live with, particularly the themes of life, death and renewal. The rituals and celebrations of midwinter give us a chance to take some time off from daily routines and enter into the realm of the creative imagination for which we Irish are now known throughout the world. We celebrate the wonderful gifts of song, dance, story and the subtle enigmatic wordless message of instrumental music which bears with it its own unique traces of ancient mystery.

The world of creative imagination operates outside all societal and cultural boundaries and so it is entirely fitting that we are joined in our celebration by the amazing Grace Nono from the Philippines. She brings us beautiful chants with roots in pre-colonial culture which reach out to all humanity and call for respect for the earth and the knowledge and wisdom of those who have gone before us.

– Mick Moloney

 

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