Christmas, Cider and Plays - 28th Dec. 1946


Christmas, Cider and Plays: Text Version

December 28, 1946


After Christmas the year is usually dead. You can do little with what is left of it and the best thing to do is to relax after the busy time you've had leading up to the great Feast. But for Christmas the winter would be a dreadful affair, with nothing to break the long monotony of dark days and weary nights. The bitter winds of October, the rain and storms of November, the frosts and fogs of December -– we courageously face them all; for through the gloom and cold of winter our eyes are set on the star of Christmas, and we look forward to the season of good will when every one is happy and all men are brothers.

In Soviet Russia Christmas Day is an ordinary working day, when men are carefully watched to see that they show not the slightest sign that they have any idea that the day is anything else than that which the Godless rulers of that unhappy land wish it to be. That must be one of the most unbearable features of the whole unbearable system.


Not all the good fare disappears on Christmas Day. Some of it survives until Little Christmas. Little Christmas or Nollaig na mBan, is the women's Christmas. Between Big Christmas and Little Christmas it is customary for the women to go visiting. Little Christmas is sometimes called in Irish Nollaig Steille -– Christmas of the Star; because it was at this time that the Wise Men from the East discovered the strange star in the sky that guided them to Bethlehem. It was at Little Christmas and not at Big Christmas that Red Hugh O'Donnell escaped from Dublin Castle. The old chroniclers who wrote of the escape of the Prince of Tir Conaill, give the time as Nallaig Steille -– Christmas of the Star.


When you drop into the neighbours' houses after Christmas you may be treated to lemonade or cider. Talking of cider reminds me of a letter I recently received from 'Roddy the Rover' who has been studying old records of County Limerick. He writes:–

' I wish you would tell me, dear 'Mangaire Sugach' what is Cackagay Cider? How is the word derived or pronounced? Was the man who first wrote it down a trifle sugach at the time?

'I came on the word, dear Mangaire, in Lewis's account of Co. Limerick in the eighteen-thirties. 'This and the contiguous County of Clare', he writes, 'are famous for their orchards, which produce the much-esteemed Cackagay Cider. The most celebrated districts for its manufacture are those around Pallaskenry, Adare, Croom, Rathkeale and Kilpeacon.'

I do not know what cackagay cider is. I wonder could any of my readers shed any light on the subject?


Continuing 'Roddy the Rover' wrote:

'Of County Limerick in general, Lewis recalls Arthur Young's description of the land as the richest he had ever seen; 'yet not more than a fourth,' says Lewis, 'is under tillage, the remainder being wholly devoted to the fattening of black cattle and sheep.' This looks bad, but who was to blame? The landlords. For in some leases there is a special clause under heavy penalties to prevent more than one acre in 20, and in some cases more than one in 50, being broken up or in any way ivated. It looks bad, indeed.


In many parts of the country the drama season is in full swing. From now until the end of Lent plays good, bad and indifferent, will be presented in town and village hall. In the past few years the interest in drama has been growing apace. That is as it should be. For the dramatic societies in the vicinity of Limerick there is now provided a wonderful opportunity of rounding off their season with an appearance in a city theatre.

I am referring to the drama section of Feile Luimnighe. Any society that has any opinion of itself –- and what society hasn't? –- should enter for the competitions in that section. If they did who knows what conquests they might bring home. But if they never won a prize they'd certainly benefit from the constructive criticism of the adjudicator, and maybe learn a thing or two about the many problems of acting and production into the bargain. The competitions will begin about the middle of next March, and any groups interested in them should communicate at once with the Secretary of Feile Luimnighe, 8, The Crescent, Limerick – and I wish them all good luck.

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