Toledo Irish: Remembering Toledo Hibernian Christmas Celebrations Past

Toledo Irish: Remembering Toledo Hibernian Christmas Celebrations Past
by Maury Collins

The history of Toledo Hibernian Christmas celebrations is special to us here in Toledo.  The earliest celebrations were all day affairs.  Members brought their children and grandchildren in for an afternoon session of activities and snacks followed by a visit from Santa Claus, played with enthusiasm by Sister Ann McManus. The adult Christmas party began with a Mass. 

I remember one year when the crew putting up the tables and chairs decided to “taste” the refreshments to make sure they were good.  Father Tom Quinn arrived and voiced his displeasure at people drinking just before Mass.  I believe it only happened that one time. 

Mary Miller and the Keltic Kaleidoscope band provided music for the Mass as well as entertainment between Mass and dinner.  Hibernians who belonged to the Keltic Kaleidoscope were Mary Miller, Matt Cassidy and Dave Lymanstall.  Dinners for the most part were potluck, although it was decided to have the event catered a couple of times. 

Usually the LAOH ladies provided the main dish and the AOH men provided the refreshments, then the installation of newly elected officers took place after the meal.  The AOH Division officers and the LAOH Division Officers were installed on alternating years.  State Presidents were invited to install the officers. 

Ohio State AOH Presidents who attended include Dan MacDonald, Thomas O’Mahoney, Mike McKenzie, Jim Magee R.I.P.  and Ron Hagan.   National AOH Director Bill Byrnes R.I.P. was also a guest on a few occasions.  Former Michigan State President Patrick Maguire, along with his wife Angela, were frequent guests.  Ohio State LAOH Presidents who attended include: Colleen McKenzie and our own Ann Dollman.  National LAOH President Maureen Shelton was also a guest.

Each member brought an item for a silent auction, conducted by Madonna Pauken, who also was in charge of making Irish coffee.  Profits from the silent auction went to various soup kitchens.  Mike Cassidy, who ran a beverage dispensing company, received donations from the Coca Cola Company.  Items included bikes, scooters, patio umbrellas and even a toboggan. Those items usually were part of raffles.  One year, it was decided to auction the larger items.

Since there was no auctioneer available, it was decided that since I was the division president, I should conduct the auction.  I thought I did a pretty good imitation of an auctioneer, but I had a wee bit of Jameson before we started, so maybe it wasn’t all that good. 

Sometimes the smaller the hall the better the party because we were all squished in together!  I remember some of the ladies getting up and dancing a bit to a special song, sharing a nip or passing the bottle. But this was always our time together.

The January 2009 Toledo Hibernian newsletter included the following: Christmas Was a Great Success!  On December 13th, the Lucas County Hibernians held their annual Christmas Mass and Party along with the installation of officers. Bishop Donnelly celebrated the Mass. 

Guests of honor included Ohio State President Jim Magee and his wife, Linda, and former Michigan State President, Pat Maguire and his wife, Angela.  Ann Dollman and Dan McCarthy were the Co-chairs for the event.  Proceeds from the raffle went to help the less fortunate in the form of donations to the soup kitchens at St. Louis Church and Our Lady of Lourdes Church.

Another Christmas celebration was the Brigid’s Cross Christmas show at St. Clement Hall, filled with Toledo Irish taking a break from their Christmas preparations, to just enjoy each other’s company and the music and comedy of Brigid’s Cross.  One of the non-Christmas songs Brigid’s Cross would perform was “The Dutchman.” 

Maury is NOT The Dutchman
Paul Baker would introduce the song by saying “The next song is called “The Dutchman.” It’s about a crazy old guy and his lady, who looks out for him.  And, no, it’s not about Maury Collins.”  This of course, brought lots of laughter.  The Ardan Academy Irish dancers put on their usual wonderful performance. All in all, they were wonderful festive evenings.

I have great memories from a better time for Toledo Hibernians.  Looking back, I can’t help but remember Jim Mack R.I.P. with his Santa hat and green apron taking over the kitchen duties, in what was to be his last Christmas celebration with us. 

Then there was the time Father Marty Donnelly R.I.P. was saying Mass for us in the Blessed Sacrament Gym (which Father let us use at no charge).  I had on a “Christmas tie,” which played “We wish you a Merry Christmas” when I pressed the button.  

Father Marty had just finished reading the Gospel, everyone was seated, and Father was about to start his homily when I accidently hit the button.  Father looked around to see where the strange little noise was coming from.  He looked at me sitting there red faced and said, “Only you, Maury.” We all had to laugh and then he started his homily.

There are others who are no longer with us, who helped fill a hall for both events each December.  Tom King R.I.P. John O’Halloran R.I.P., Maurice Buckley R.I.P., Larry Maher R.I.P., Clarise Burkard R.I.P., Betty Mears R.I.P. and Joann Cassidy R.I.P.  Leaders all, their enthusiasm and humor are surely missed today. 

We Wish You a Merry Christmas!!!
*Maury Collins is a Charter Member and past president of the John P. Kelly Division AOH and a proud first-generation Irish American.  Contact him at [email protected]

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