Christmas 2022: The offspring of Santa Claus's favourite tree takes root in the soils of Terryland Forest Park!
New York City (NYC) is very special to me. As a city that I worked in during my student days at the height of the disco era it holds exciting memories of good times- for instance I saw the Bees Gees on stage in Madison Square Gardens during their Saturday Night Fever phase!
As a family we travelled to the Big Apple annually over the last few years except 2021 due to the pandemic. We were back this April and it was wonderful to see that, a place that had a reputation pre-2020 as “a city that never sleeps” finally, like so much of the rest of the world, woke up after its enforced COVID slumber.
Of course New York has serious social and economic issues which are well documented and highlighted by its own new breed of progressive radical politicians. But what fascinates me most with New York in the present era is its brilliant pioneering eco-projects. That is why I visit. Manhattan, whose streets were only a few years ago dominated by cars, is very quickly being immersed with a pedestrian and cycling infrastructure. The Gung-ho ethos in action. There is a greening of the city that is only made possible by grassroots NGOs, big business, large institutions and municipal government working towards a common goal of urban sustainability. If NYC can go green, blue and smart, then any city worldwide can. Shame on our Galway City Council for still promoting outdated and discredited transport strategies whilst failing to adequately protect and invest sufficiently in our public parks- the green lungs of the city.
More on the greening of the Big Red Apple in future postings.
But I also love visiting the USA to meet my American cousins. None more so than Ed Eccles, a true and honourable gentleman. New York suffered horribly during COVID with over 43,000 deaths. But Ed kept working throughout the crisis, travelling by train from New Jersey into the city on an almost daily basis working in maintenance at the New York University in downtown Manhattan helping to keep its systems operational. Thanks Ed.
The spirit of caring and helping is symptomatic of a modern day Christmas with tens of millions of euros being collected for good causes every December in modern day Ireland. There is a wonderful emphasis on volunteering and taking part in fund-raising events to support those who are disadvantaged both at home and abroad. Inclusivity and diversity takes centre stage with children of special needs, disabilities, different ethnicity and faiths being given respect and prominence in the media such as on the Late Late Toy Show and other festive television delights. In Ireland the renowned generosity and openness of our people is there for all to see.
Colourful pop-up Xmas markets are hosted in every city enticing the visitor with amongst other things, live entertainment, an array of Irish handmade produce, fair trade gifts, mouth-watering craft beverages and tasty homegrown organic foods. Post-Ukrainian invasion, Irish towns and villages across the country are still decorated with colourful sparkling bunting and lights, and the gardens and buildings of some private houses look like Las Vegas at night-time.
Over the last few years, the Irish people have been encouraged to Buy Irish, Buy Local, Buy Sustainable, Buy Organic and support jobs and innovation in Ireland.
Thanks to online shopping and special festive product releases, the selection of toys for children as well as electronic gadgetry, clothes, toiletries and jewellery for adults has never been more wide ranging. A guilt-free happy consumerism ‘for good causes’ (family, friends, country, the economically disadvantaged and oneself) takes centre stage.
Post COVID, all age groups thankfully are once again celebrating at Christmas with their peers, from work parties for adults, to school concerts for children and parents, and clubbing/pubbing for the youth (& young at heart!). I myself enjoy organising a very special annual alcohol-free end-of-year multicultural party at my research institute paying homage to the rich culinary and other homeland traditions of our members. The cinemas, streaming and online media libraries such as Netflix as well as music services explode with much anticipated seasonal movies and music blockbusters. Though truth be told, the almost complete absence now of nightclubs in a Galway city famed for its ents is hard to believe.
Children happily write cards to Santa and more likely than not in Ireland he delivers their requested and oftentimes very expensive gifts. Boys and girls wake up early on Christmas morning to rush down to the tree to be overwhelmed with an array of toys. Thank you Santa!
But the most welcome characteristic of Christmas 2022 is the reappearance of the extended family coming together for Christmas. For the first time since 2019, parents, children, uncles and aunts are returning home from distant lands to spend the festive season with mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, sons and daughters. In our case, our own youngest son Dáire came home to Ireland from Barcelona where he is studying medical science and in a few days I will travelling to the home of my youth in Carrickmacross to spend a few days with my brother Michael and to hopefully met a few friends from school days.
In times past.
Christmas during my childhood was more frugal, more serious, more religious, less bright and less festive than that of the 21st century. But it was nevertheless magical and wondrous for children then as it is for today’s young generation. But in a different way. In our household we try as with many other Irish families try to keep in 2022 some of these often millennia old traditions alive which have almost evaporated in the last few decades or where their true meaning has been for forgotten.
Part 2 to follow.