Madigan Muses: Christmas Traditions
by Marilyn Madigan
One of the Irish traditions at Christmas is the lighting of a candle in the window. This is one of my favorite traditions. The light is a beacon of hospitality, but more importantly, it shows that the Holy Family is welcomed in the home. Irish immigrants brought this tradition to the United States during the 19th century and many Irish families continue this tradition today.
This tradition has an interesting history. In the 17th century, laws were introduced to attempt to quash the Irish language, culture and the Catholic religion. Priests were persecuted and went into hiding during this period. The story of welcoming the Holy Family served also to trick the British soldiers.
The Candle in the Window invited Priests to come in the house, take shelter and to say Mass. The true origin is unknown, but the candle does demonstrate Irish hospitality.
President Mary Robinson introduced the tradition of the candle in the window at the Aras an Uachtarain. This candle is now permanently in place to symbolize that the Irish Diaspora is always welcome and to show them the way home to Ireland.
We should also always have a permanent welcoming beacon of light to our family, friends and others. Share the light of Christ in all you do.
“May peace and plenty be the first to lift the latch on your door, and may happiness be guided to your home by the candle of Christmas. May the good saints protect you and bless you today. And may trouble ignore you each step of the way.”
La Nollaig Shona duit.
*Marilyn Madigan is the National Vice President of the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians and a Deputy Director of the United Irish Societies of Cleveland. She received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from St. John College and retired from Nursing at University Hospitals of Cleveland .