Monday, December 26, 2011

St. Stephen's Day in the Park

When I celebrated Christmas in England 12 years ago I discovered that the Brits call December 26th Boxing Day.  It gained that name years ago as wealthy people would put together a box of goodies for their servants the day following Christmas (let's be honest, they put together a box full of leftovers).  It is now an official holiday in the UK.  They celebrate the same day in Ireland, but they don't call it Boxing Day, but rather St. Stephen's Day.  When people ask me what we call it I just tell them, "the day after Christmas."

Due to the unseasonably warm weather we're having in Ireland, I spent part of St. Stephen's Day with Ashlyn, Davis, and Bailey in St. Anne's Park.  Davis and Bailey's parents were off with Jo Ellis catching the new Sherlock Holmes movie on the big screen, so Juli and I agreed to look after their kids.  We'll swap tomorrow as Ashlyn will hang out with Karnes while we see the most recent installment of the Mission Impossible series.  Anyway, the park was packed with people running off their Christmas dinner, catching a bit of fresh air, or, as I was doing, watching their kids run around the playground.  This time last year we were under a foot of snow and although there's something romantic about a white Christmas, I'd much rather be able to spend St. Stephen's Day in the park. - Shay

Friday, December 23, 2011

2011 Favorites

It's Christmas Eve eve and it really doesn't seem like the holidays (except for the jam-packed mall in Blanchardstown).  In Balmorhea, TX around 40 or 50 of my relatives will be gathering over the weekend.  We won't be there (but neither will my pediatrician sister who will be on call).  In Edmond, OK quite a few (but nowhere near 50) of Juli's relations will be celebrating together.  We won't be there either.  So, it just doesn't seem like Christmas.

Regardless, I still love this time of the year as I'm able to reflect on the year that was and look forward to the year that will be.  So, in that vein, here are some of my favorites from 2011.

Favorite Movie - Moneyball

Favorite Trip - England and Denmark with nearly 20 of my relatives

Favorite Record - Roddy Woomble, "The Impossible Song and the Other Songs"

Favorite Hikes - Slieve Donard, County Down, Northern Ireland and the Wicklow Way, County Wicklow, Republic of Ireland

Favorite Books - Nonfiction: "Virtue Reborn" by N.T. Wright; Fiction: "New Irish Short Stories" ed. by Joseph O'Connor

Favorite Fan Moments - Arsenal 1, Manchester United 0 on May 1 and Texas 27, Texas A&M 25 on November 24

Favorite Family Moments - Juli and Ashlyn arriving back home to Dublin after three weeks in the States and Ashlyn turning 2 on October 20

2012, your turn. - Shay 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

'Tis The Season

On the way to the Clongriffin community center the other night, Ashlyn kept yelling out, "Partayyy!!!  We're going to the partayyy!!!"  I'll confess, I taught her that.  Hopefully she'll learn to pronounce it properly someday.  We were in fact on our way to our Failte Isteach Christmas party.  Failte Isteach is Gaelic for "welcome in" and is actually an ESL (English as a Second Language) class that our Christian community helps run for mostly Polish students here in Dublin.

Tuesday evening's party was my first of many festive celebrations to come.  This afternoon, after I finish teaching another English class at Dublin Central Mission, we'll have a Christmas party.  Tonight the basketball team I play on is having a Christmas gathering.  On Friday evening I'll be at the Karnes house for another Christmas party (with some of our friends and neighbors).  Juli can't make that party because she'll be at another one for the playgroup she helps run.  On Sunday we'll join Ranelagh Christian Church for worship, and then, you guessed it, a Christmas party.  Juli came up with an amazing idea for early January.  "Why don't we have an after-Christmas party!"  So a few days after the New Year some of our other friends and neighbors will join us to celebrate the party season's conclusion (complete with a re-gifting game).  

Where the United States has turned Christmas into an end of the year economic booster, Ireland has used this season as an excuse to partayyy!  Some of the parties are more pagan than Christian, to be sure, but it does give us an excuse to get to know our friends and neighbors a bit better and to share with them our conviction that Christmas, and especially Easter can and should be celebrated everyday of our lives. - Shay

Saturday, December 10, 2011


The Romans never conquered Ireland.  Never even tried.  The combination of Celtic warriors and wet, wintry conditions meant that this small island on the edge of the Atlantic didn't fall favorably into the Roman cost/benefit analysis.  They did give the island the name Hibernia (literally - wintry).  This time of year (no surprise there) the name is appropriate.  Not because it's freezing cold, it really isn't here normally, but because Ireland's so far north, the daylight never seems to get too bright.  It seems as if its twilight all day long.

On December 21, the winter solstice, the sunrise in Dublin will be at 8:38 and the sun will set at 4:08.  More than two thirds of the day will be in darkness.  Though I prefer the long daylight we get in the summer, there's something about this time of year that brings on a strong sense of nostalgia.  Part of it is the Christmas season, but part of it has far more to do with the crisp cool air, the bare stripped tree branches, and the way that the fullness of day never quite seems to come.  These days take me back in time. - Shay