Sunday, December 16, 2007

"Mass-going feet" and "a frosty dawn"

Every child has strong memories of Christmas mornings. The joy of the long-awaited day's arrival; the gift-giving; the beauty of the morning shared with family. Many Irish children in days gone by remembered the outdoor beauty of the morning of Christ's birth as they made their way to early morning Mass with their families.

Patrick Kavanagh, a well-loved Irish poet of recent times, has written a beautiful poem which brings to life his memories of those Christmas mornings. Here is a portion of his poem, A Christmas Childhood. Kavanagh's vivid description of the morning preparations and the family's walk to church on "Mass-going feet" can't help but make the reader sentimental for Christmases past.

...Outside the cow-house my mother
Made the music of milking;
The light of her stable-lamp was a star
And the frost of Bethlehem made it twinkle.

A water-hen screeched in the bog,
Mass-going feet
Crunched the wafer-ice on the pot-holes,
Somebody wistfully twisted the bellows wheel.

My child poet picked out the letters
On the grey stone,
In silver the wonder of a Christmas townland,
The winking glitter of a frosty dawn...
You can read the full text of Kavanagh's A Christmas Childhood at this Irish Culture & Customs webpage.

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 Church Services on December 17.

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