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Kenmare hotelier and TV celebrity Francis Brennan when he bought the Park Hotel in Kenmare 1982.
Picture by Don MacMonagle -macmonagle.com
Christmas Greetings from
KERRY NEWS CHRISTMAS 2020
29
KERRY NEWS CHRISTMAS ‘98
  Where did Christmas come from?
Santa Fred
A great friend to The Kerry News
Alexandrians, but many eastern churches continued to recognise January 6th. The Armenian Church still does. The tradition in Kerry of referring to January 6th as “Little Christmas” may even be a survival from these times. Coptic monks steeped in the eastern traditions were amongst the very first Christians to arrive in this part of Ireland. It is not possible to be precise about their Christmas traditions, but given their middle-eastern origins it is fair to presume that they reflected the more feminine traditions of the Alexandria festival. The other name for “Little Christmas” in Kerry is “Women’s Christmas”. Could there be a connection? In any event it is more than possible that the first
Christmas in Kerry was celebrated on this date.
These two great
pagan mid-winter festivals, with their central themes celebrating the Divine Virgin Mother and the Divine and Everlasting Sun/Son, provided a perfect setting for the first Christmas celebrations in the fourth century. Much of
By Eugene O’Shea
priests would cut one of the trees down and decorate it before carrying it into the temple where he would receive an effigy of the divine God-child Attis. One of these holy-eves was of course December the 24th. Other rituals associated with the veneration of the Mother Goddess included the exchanging of gifts, carolling, feasting and the holding of processions.
As Christianity spread it came into contact with many cultures spread throughout Europe. Virtually all of these held mid-winter festivals and associated that time of the year with birth and re-birth. Newgrange in Co. Meath, with its five thousand year old traditions, is one of the most spectacular examples of the tenacity, the antiquity, and the great geographical spread of these beliefs.
The traditions of the Norse have been particularly influential on the modern Christmas. The term Yuletide derives from a Norse word depicting the midwinter festival of the birth of their God Frey. Christmas traditions of “magical fires”, whether puddings, trees or logs set alight,`originated in festivals such as these which celebrated, or called up, the Sun in the darkest hour of the year.
Many of the ancient traditions became so interwoven with the modern ritual that they became indistinguishable from it. The process by which the popular middle-eastern patron saint of children, Nicholas, became merged with older German mid- winter gods and protectors of children to give us Father Christmas is one of the best examples. The way in which his image was transformed for all time by a clever advertising executive at Coca-cola who dressed him up in the corporate colours shows how the process continues.
The Celtic world made its own contribution with the mistletoe and holly, both plants associated with the sacred Oak. And Wren’s Day of course cleverly combines an old pagan rite with ideas of sacrifice and kingship.
 photo by Don MacMonagle
To-day’s Christmas is an intricate blending of rituals and traditions from many parts of the world and from many different periods of time.
Some of the traditions are older than recorded history itself and the nature of their origins can only be guessed at. Others are younger than Coca-Cola and are no more than the handiwork of commercial artists. Whilst for most of us in this part of the world the heart of Christmas is the Bethlehem Story, it is also true that most of what we do for Christmas has its roots in far older traditions and rituals, most of which had religious significance in their own day.
For three hundred years and more the church did not celebrate the birth of Christ at all and it was not until the fourth century, and after much argument and debate, that a date was chosen for such a celebration. The way
T
in which it was chosen, and the special way in which the debate of that time is reflected in the Irish traditions of Christmas today, is an interesting story.
December 25 was the date of a very popular Roman mid-winter festival at the
“When we celebrate Christmas to-day we are
continuing a practice
probably tens of
thousands of years old”
time known as “The Birthday of the Unconquered Sun”. The church authorities in Rome favoured this date. Church leaders from the east, however, including those in Jerusalem, favoured January 6th, the date of an Alexandrian Goddess Festival . Eventually the Roman “male god festival” won out over the “goddess festival” of the
what has survived is associated with these two festivals as the eastern and western Christian traditions influenced each other over the centuries.
The Christmas Tree is a good example. The Christmas tree derived from the pinea silva , pine groves that were attached to the temples of the Goddess. On the eve of holy days Roman
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FRIENDS star Matt Le Blanc driving his Rolls Royce during Top Gear in Kenmare 2017
Picture by Don MacMonagle -macmonagle.com
McSweeney
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 Arms Hotel
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Hugh Grant at the Killarney Park Hotel signs an autograph
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