As we prepare for the festive season on Aran, out searching for Holly and Ivy to decorate the house and getting the 12 tall candles that we burn on Christmas Eve in the old West of Ireland tradition of lighting the way of the three kings. Our thoughts are with our loved ones abroad for many of whom the beauty of a Christmas on the island is one very much missed.
It is a time of not only giving but also of being thankful as well as sharing memories like the one of the first Christmas tree with fairy-lights, on the island that first winter after electricity came. I remember being told by the sisters “A & B” about walking back west at dusk just to the lights flicker in the windows of the Conneely’s BnB in Kilmurvey with cotton wool on its branches as snow. Christmas on the island is void of the commercialism and conspicuous consumption one finds urban centers.
There is something special about seeing Xmas trees coming off the cargo boat just a week or so before Christmas. That Christmas still holds it’s religious connotation is evident here as most islanders head to mass on both Xmas eve and or Xmas day. The tradition of eating salted rock fish (Beannachtaí ) with white sauce on Christmas Eve is slowing dying out as our tastes becomes more global. But sometimes tradition needs to be upheld. Talking to the old fisherman ‘M’, he bemoans the fact that there is not many rock fish around this year as the seals whose numbers have vastly increased are getting most of the fish.
If you can get your hands on some salted Cod “Bacaloa” (from Barcelona) this maybe one way of upholding the tradition of the fish supper on Christmas Eve before midnight mass.