Saturday, December 15, 2007

"A fairyland of gold and glitter to feast the eyes of a country child"

Christmas 1858 must have been a time of joy and sadness for Patrick Tierney. Just eighteen years old, I'm sure that memories of childhood Christmases in Ireland were fresh on his mind as he celebrated the season with the hope of a new young immigrant to America.

Wondering what his memories of Ireland might have been like, I was happy to find an account written in the 1920's by Consiglio Murphy. She wrote her memories of Christmas in East Cork "sixty years ago" - which would have been around the 1860's, a few short years after Patrick Tierney had arrived in America from the neighboring County Tipperary.

I enjoyed reading her memories about the pre-Christmas plum pudding process, and how each family member was required to stir the pudding to prevent a death in the family in the new year.

Visits with gifts of fresh milk to neighbors "with many children" ended up with she and her siblings returning filled with rich cake or plum pudding and a chide from their mother, "You took more from those poor people than you gave."

She also tells about her memories of riding into town with her parents in the "pony and trap" to "bring home the Christmas". On the way back in the dark of the Irish late winter afternoon, she remembers enjoying the sights of the lit gas lamps, "a fairyland of gold and glitter to feast the eyes of a country child, who only had an oil lamp and candles at home."

I can't help but wonder what young Patrick Tierney, a country child from Tipperary, feasted his eyes on during his first Christmas in Boston in 1858.

You can read the rest of Consiglio Murphy's memories of mid-19th-century East Cork Christmas at this Irish Culture & Customs webpage or in the book No Shoes in Summer by Merlin Press.

The topic for this post was inspired by Thomas MacEntee's Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories at Destination: Austin Family. Check out his calendar daily this month for some good mini-memoirs of this nostalgic season. This post will be listed under Christmas Grab Bag on December 15.

The vintage postcard image above (circa early 1900's) is courtesy of Visit the website to view more beautiful postcards.

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