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Many thanks to our readers who contributed a fine story and a poem this month. If you have an article or a contribution please do send it in to us.
Of course the country is gearing up for Christmas at the moment with many people hoping that the very worst of the economic downturn is now behind us. After 5 years of austerity it is hoped that 2014 will mark something of a turning point for the country. Let us hope so!
Until next time,
'BLACK FRIDAY' IN BELFAST GETS OUT OF CONTROL
A 'Black Friday' promotion for cut-price televisions in an Asda Store in Belfast went horribly wrong when a stampede of eager shoppers turned into a mob. A woman had to be hospitalized with a suspected broken arm and other injuries while it was claimed that a pregnant woman was knocked to the ground. Pensioners also suffered in the mad dash for the bargains.
One witness remarked: 'It was just a free-for-all. It was frightening," she said. "People were getting trailed to the ground. People were arguing. Two of my friends were injured.'
DUBLIN PROPERTY MARKET SURGE PROMPTS FEARS OF A NEW BUBBLE
If anyone was thinking of buying a property in Dublin after the property crash of 2008 in the hope of snagging a bargain then they may have left it too late. The collapse in value of houses and apartments in Ireland's capital city ranged from 50% to 65% depending on the report that was cited. What is clear is that the grossly inflated prices were brought dramatically back down to earth.
Since 2008 prices have continued to fall and it is only over the last years that things have started to improve. Indeed there are certain enclaves of Dublin where prices are increasing, and rapidly.
The so-called 'golden triangle' of South Dublin has been expanded by estate-agent hyperbole to include an area north of the River Liffey. The less fashionable north side of Dublin city has seen some huge price increase in places like Marino and Clontarf where demand has far outstripped supply.
Another phenomenon not seen since the building boom is the return of 'Van-Man'. The all-action builder/painter/decorator/tiler/carpenter who seems to live in his Ford Transit Van has once again been spotted in big numbers skirting the Dublin streets. The reappearance of huge Cranes dotting the city skyline is also a very telling sign that the construction industry, previously on its knees, may be about to embark on a big recovery.
Of course the scale of the building activity is a far cry from the heady days of the 'Celtic Tiger' boom. But as one departed sage remarked decades ago: 'When the builders are doing well then the economy does well.'
Here we go again?
IRELAND TO EXIT EU/IMF/ECB LOANS PROGRAM
Ireland's status as the best-performing of the 4 EU countries who received EU/IMF/ECB loans has been reinforced by the decision of the Irish Government to emerge from the financial program.
After the sequence of events in Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Cyprus that nearly brought about the collapse of the Euro currency the exit from the program is being flagged as an important psychological step for both Ireland and the EU itself. The loans given to the Irish authorities are not scheduled to be completely repaid until 2042, such was the extent of the economic disaster that befell the country.
In a surprising move the Irish Government has decided to exit the loans program without availing of any future 'line of credit' should the vastly indebted Irish banks again need to be saved. While the cost of sovereign debt to Ireland has greatly reduced over the last couple of years the impact of any big economic event in Europe could easily trigger a new recession and wave of bank failures.
Against this background the decision of the Irish government to restore 'economic sovereignty' as they put it is being viewed in some quarters as hubristic, arrogant, short-sighted and dangerous.
Has the need for a political victory seduced the Fine Gael government into a big mistake?
Only time will tell.
IRISH BABY BOOM IN DECLINE
It may be a result of the economic troubles of recent years and it may also be a result of the huge number of mostly younger people who have emigrated from Ireland since 2008 but what is clear is that the Irish 'baby-boom' is faltering.
Recent statistic have revealed that there were 5% fewer births recorded in the second quarter of 2013 compared to the same quarter the previous year. The numbers released by the Central Statistics Office have shown that the population of Ireland is now 4.593 Million people.
The average age at which first-time mothers are giving birth has also increased to 30.2 years on average, up from 29.9 years of age a year ago. 1.9 babies per mother in Ireland are now being born in 2013 compared with 2.1 babies in 2008.
MAN ACCUSED OF PUNCHING HOLE IN 10 MILLION EURO MONET PAINTING
The 1874 painting 'Argenteuil Basin with a Single Sailboat', the only Claude Monet painting owned by the Irish National Gallery, has been badly damaged. A man claimed he fell into the painting at the Dublin Gallery but was charged with criminal damage and is on trial, accused of deliberately punching a hole in the masterpiece.
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CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS IN IRELAND
Christmas in Ireland has a number of traditions that seem to be all of our own. Of course while many countries have similar traditions at the festive time of year, Irish traditions are steeped in the mythology of the nativity and the history of conflict within the country.
THE CANDLE IN THE WINDOW
A tradition that was very widespread in the 1970's but which seems to be dying out somewhat and especially in urban areas is the 'candle in the window'. Symbolically the candle represented a welcome to Joseph and Mary as they wandered in search of lodgings. The candle indicated to strangers and especially to the poor that there may be an offering of food in the house within.
During the Penal Times in Ireland Catholic priests were forbidden to perform Mass so the candle acted as a covert signal that the occupier was a Catholic believer and that mass could be held on the premises.
Mary the mother of Jesus was especially revered in Ireland at Christmas. There are many traditions involving girls named Mary which at one time was by far the most popular female name in the country. The candle in the window was often to be lit by a girl named Mary and only extinguished by her. The removal of decorations in January were also often to be punctuated by a visit from a Mary.
THE WREN BOY PROCESSION
The Wren Boy Procession has been revived in recent years with parades being held on St. Stephens Day in Sandymount in Dublin and other locations. There are several legends regarding the 'wren boy'.
One such tale tells of a plot in a village against some British soldiers during Penal times. The soldiers were surrounded and were about to be ambushed when a group of wrens pecked on their drums raising the alarm. The plot failed and thus the wren became known as 'The Devil's Bird'.
To commemorate this deed a procession takes place where a pole with a holly bush is carried from house to house and families dress up in old clothes and with blackened faces. In ancient times an actual wren bird would be killed and placed on top of the pole.
It is possible that the very Irish tradition of visiting houses of friends and relatives on St. Stephens Day traces its origin to these events.
THE LADEN TABLE
The centre-piece of the Christmas holiday in Ireland is the Christmas Dinner. After the often lavish meal the kitchen table was again set and on it was placed some bread and milk and the table adorned with the welcoming candle. If Mary and Joseph, or any wandering traveller, happened by then they could avail of the hospitality.
IRISH CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS
The widespread practice of placing a ring of Holly on a front door started in Ireland. Holly was one of the main plants that flourished at Christmas time in Ireland and gave the poorer population means with which to decorate their homes.
All Christmas decorations are usually taken down and put away on 'Little Christmas' (January 6th.). It is considered very bad luck to remove the decorations and Christmas tree before this date.
Modern Ireland has changed vastly from the times when these Irish Christmas traditions flourished and have often been replaced with newer more secular ones. St. Stephens Day is still regarded as a day to visit family and friends but is also a great sporting day with horse-racing, football and a myriad of other sports taking prominence.
Many workers take the entire week off between Christmas Day and New Years Day with many businesses completely closing down during this time.
Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve is also very well attended and is often adorned with a choir, the Church with a Manger and Nativity scene.
A Christmas Day swim is practised in certain parts of Ireland with perhaps the most famous being at the 'Forty Foot' tiny beach in South Dublin.
TRADITIONAL GAELIC SALUTATION
The Gaelic greeting for 'Merry Christmas' is:
'Nollaig Shona Duit'
......which is pronounced as 'null-ig hun-a dit'.
CELLACHAN OF CASHEL - THE FIRST O'CALLAGHAN
by Seamus O'Donoghue
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