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A warm tale of Christmas in Inishowen 21.12.07

PEOPLE from abroad who have made new homes in Inishowen have been meeting on a weekly basis in Buncrana to discuss various issues around parenting in Ireland today. The get-togethers under the Parent Time Programme have been organised by the Inishowen Partnership Company. The main aim was to bring parents together and give them an opportunity to meet people who share similar experiences of moving to a new country and learning a new language.
While many challenges of parenting are obviously similar to those of Irish parents, language is often an additional barrier for many. Imagine what it would be like for many of us Irish parents if our children came home from school talking in another language and we had to communicate and correspond in this new language to find out about our child’s education and wellbeing. Also, having to live and work in a new community, where the majority speak this different language and adjust culturally – it's not easy.
Gertrude Houton, who has been working with the group, said they ended the sessions for this year talking about Christmas.
"Hearing the stories from parents with Lithuanian, Polish and Latvian backgrounds and comparing these with Christmas in Ireland was very interesting. Similarities we had in common were Santa, Christmas trees, Christmas cards and fruit cake.”
Kasia Wotach from Poland explained: “The 8th of December is called Little Christmas in Poland. On this date children would receive a small present and Santa would take away their letters.”
The group discovered that for many families leading up to and on Christmas Eve, they would not eat meat, drink alcohol or enjoy loud music or dancing. Fish, oil and vegetables would be their main diet while wine made from fruit juices would be drunk.
This special meal would be served for family members and the table
The Christmas tree in Moville.
would usually be set with an extra place setting in the event a lonely neighbour may arrive. They would usually prepare twelve different dishes and/or lay the table for twelve to symbolise the twelve apostles. Special bread (tasting similar to the bread used for Holy Communion) would be baked and shared by families. Some families would include a piece of this bread in their Christmas cards to family and friends.
The lovely crib at St. Mary's Church, Cockhilll. After the meal, children would place a lighted candle in the window to welcome Jesus into their home, some would attend vigil mass and, or, read passages from the Bible. This night was known as the miracle night, miracles could happen on this night, animals may even talk! Santa would leave a gift for each of the children that night - but not the loads that seems to be the custom in Irish families at present.
Meanwhile, on Christmas day, families would once again celebrate but this time they would have meat, turkey or duck, vegetables and dessert, ginger cake and homemade biscuits.
“We concluded the session by choosing three good things about living in Ireland at Christmas time," added Gertrude.
"They were as follows: it's a special time for families,
Kris kindle (the local school had initiated this for the children) while the third good thing was all the decorations and lights that light up our homes and towns. We even stretched to a fourth good thing about Christmas in Ireland - Irish coffees!”
If you would like to get involved or have a neighbour who may have moved here, let them know about the Parent Time Programme - you can contact Denise or Kasia at the Inishowen Partnership on 9362218. Happy Christmas everyone.
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