Page 25 - Demo
P. 25

  Main Street, Killarney in 1984
Going to Town for the Christmas
   Main Street, Killarney Christmas 2020
   HOW often do we hear people say,
and Woolworth’s were relatively small shops, but they seemed absolutely huge to us country children as we trawled through the wonderland of goodies and toys.
You really don’t have that kind of rush, or stampede, anymore. With some shops open 24/7 and the majority open at night and Sundays, people now spread out their shopping and most have it all done well before Christmas Eve.
But, there are always the latecomers who start to panic on Christmas Eve and barely make it to the shops before the shutters are put up. Human nature never changes.
Something else I can clearly recall is the peculiar smell of Christmas. I should have said smells for, now that I’ve already begun to get the same aromas in the run-up to Christmas 2007, my nostrils are reminding me again. It’s always nice to get the wistful whiff of Christmas baking as you pass a house, not to speak of the unmistakeable scent of home- made plum pudding from a busy kitchen.
There’s also the smell of meat and turkey. Even if I smell raw turkey in June, I associate it with Christmas; there’s something in raw fowl that assails the nostrils. However, we don’t get as many food smells at Christmas any more because so much food is pre-packed now.
Spiced beef is something we didn’t have during my childhood and I don’t seem to remember much of it around the place, even in Killarney butcher shops. But, it seems to have got fairly popular in recent years.
In Cork, they’re stone mad for spiced beef and it was there I got the first distinctive aroma of it during a visit to Leeside around Christmas, many moons ago. I remember my mother inquiring about this thing: like most Kerry folk, she didn’t know too much about it.
In Cork, however, the corned beef pickled in brown spice was and is an essential part of the Christmas fare and everyone seemed to be buying it. My first encounter with spiced beef was in the English Market which continues to be a magnificent food emporium and a place I never fail to visit on trips to Cork, to this day.
 ‘ah sure, Christmas is only for the children’’....
There’s no doubt that the joy that lights up a child’s face when he, or she, finds those toys on Christmas morning is something that brings as much, if not greater, joy to those that witness it.With people so well off nowadays, it’s not that easy to surprise a child any more. But Christmas has its own magic and there’s always that tingling feeling of anticipation as the big day draws nigh.Imagine then the levels of excitement that were generated in poorer times when kids didn’t have treats every day and their cherished toys were few and simple enough throughout the year! Childhood memories of Christmas for me stretch back to the 1950’s and ‘60’s. We lived out the country and Killarney was our nearest big town, so it was to there the family went for the Christmas shopping.
When we had gone through all that was to be seen, we met up with mother who had in the intervening period being doing the more serious and mundane Christmas shopping. Home then, pen and paper out and the letter scripted for Santa.
The list could include a gun, a cowboy suit, a football, games of snakes and ladders, draughts, or ludo, crayons, story books, Christmas annuals, train sets, or miniature cars. No play stations or computer games back then. Now, Santa has always been known as an exceptionally generous man but, even so, he never could deliver on the all the requests in the letter. But he did his best and I don’t ever remember being disappointed with what I found on the bottom of my bed on Christmas morning. Something that strikes me now, but didn’t away back then, is: how come we never put two and two together when the toys that Santa brought were exactly the same as those we had seen in the shops? Just couldn’t make the connection. In our innocence, we probably thought Santa could read our little minds, go to exactly the right shops and bring just the things we wanted - same brand, size and colour.
Coming up to Christmas, Killarney was a magical place, with bustling shops and turkey markets. As Christmas got closer the pace went up a gear, or two, before reaching a climax with the mad rush by last minute shoppers on Christmas Eve when the town would be just black with people.
These days, you’ll find plenty of geese for sale in the English Market and a small proportion of homes opt for a goose rather than a turkey for the Christmas dinner. Our next door neighbours, long ago, always had a goose, but my mother wouldn’t let a goose inside the door, dead or alive.
She believed goose was too fat, had too little meat (we were all well able to devour food) and was downright poor value. Somehow, I think I’d agree with her – not that I had much say about what went on the Christmas dinner menu in the snowy long ago. Mass was always the first duty on Christmas morning. Out the church afterwards, we would meet our friends and neighbouring children and would excitedly exchange news of what presents Santa had brought.
Before we wrote our annual letters to Santa, a thorough inspection of certain shops in Killarney had to be conducted. Cally McCarthy’s and Woolworth’s, both in New Street, were top of the list. The scouting trip to town took place generally on a Saturday in early December, or maybe December 8 - a huge shopping day back then and the start of the seasonal spending spree.
We would rush home, have scarcely any breakfast and get down to playing with our new toys – the beginning of what was certainly the happiest day of the year. And, somehow, our happiness always transmitted itself to the grown-up people around us, some of whom
became children again, if only for a brief period, as they played with us and our gleaming toys.
Isn’t it great that Christmas continues to bring out the child and the best in everyone!
After visiting the toy shops and seeing what was on offer, we had a good idea of what toys we wanted. We spent hours and hours poking around and looking into every nook and cranny, with treasure trove after treasure trove appearing before our eyes.
By today’s standards, McCarthy’s

   23   24   25   26   27