I remember warm, sunny afternoons spent in the cool kitchen of Clonshear, a farmhouse in the Lee Valley Co. Cork, home to my husband’s father and his family. I remember tea and biscuits and 7Up for the kids (much younger then and ruddy-faced from their new found freedom in the straw-filled haggart) and Aunty Peggy, my husband’s Aunt, hearty as she is today, sitting in the farmhouse kitchen beside the fire she had tended almost eighty years hence, reminiscing about the Christmases of her childhood.
“I remember Christmas Eve best of all” she’d say, cupping her mug of tea in her hand and staring out into the overgrown yard through a tiny back window “We would all be so excited, watching and waiting for the daylight to fade. The night would be crisp and dry and the clear sky filled with shining stars. Whatever fears we had of the ‘puca’ every other dark night, from stories strewn around the hearth, on Christmas Eve excitement dispelled them all as over the grass of the front lawn we’d run, feeling spikes of cold frost on our bare feet, before we were beckoned back into the warmth of the hearth. Then off we would run to the upstairs windows and watch and wait!”
“One by one, across the dark shadow of the Toon River,
lights would appear in the other houses as candles were lit in all the windows. We could never see these houses any other night of the year” she would smile to herself. “The darkness would fall too heavy and thick across the Toon for any visible sight of them, but on Christmas Eve they would appear, one by one, like small stars fallen to earth and trapped within the warmth of welcome and expectancy, lighting the way for the Holy Family.”
This powerful image, never to be forgotten within our wider family, holds beneath it a true sense of expectancy and ‘coming home’ which translates outward into our lives and into the world. It is a world where many at Christmas time will place a light in a window to watch and wait for loved ones to return, while others will travel across oceans and cities, such as our own, to search for a safe place to spend the night. It is a world that requires our hope and resilience and a simple trust in the one light that dispels all darkness.
And so, from the old farmhouse in Clonshear comes a continued blessing through the ages, that God grants you a longing for such simplicity; a longing for the sense of ‘home’ that has dwelt in us from our birth and pulls us forward towards our creator; a clarity of vision beneath vast clear skies; the courage to hold a light for those who have lost their way and a heart filled with hope to look across the darkness for lights to appear ‘one by one, like small stars fallen to earth and trapped within the warmth of welcome and expectancy.. lighting the way for the Holy Family’.