WHAT'S your favourite Christmas song?
There are lots to choose from, but the one that always lifts my spirits is ‘Coinnle an Linbh Íosa’.
It was written by a man from West Kerry, Caoimhín Ó Cinnéide, and the singer Séamus Begley has a pitch-perfect version of it on YouTube.
I would urge you all to listen to it over the holidays.
The simplicity of this song is what moves me the most.
As soon as I hear the first line describing how candles are shining for the baby Jesus, I am transported back to childhood when every single window in every house in the parish would have a candle lighting for Christmas.
I felt a sense of wonder at the way the parish was illuminated in the darkness and to be honest, I feel that same childish wonder when it happens to this day.
The next line tells us of Mary sitting in a window outlined in limestone white. Somehow, I always felt that this detail humanised Mary.
I thought it made her a West Kerry woman, sitting in an old cottage painted in a traditional limewash. I could picture her with a dark shawl wrapped around her, just like the women of long ago.
That was how I saw Mary when I was a child, when I fervently believed in the story of baby Jesus.
I’ve lost that faith now but when I hear this song and imagine Mary sitting in that window, a faint whisper of it returns for a fleeting moment.
I feel like a child once more and the world seems like a simpler and more certain place.
The next two lines tell of Christmas being a feast for wise men, for the poor, and for the sorrowful. It can bring joy and peace to the hearts of all.
I find a certain solace in these lines. If Christmas is a festival for everyone, it doesn’t matter if we are wise men from the east, destitute, or grieving, there is comfort in it for us all.
A peace, a sense of ease, and a loveliness that is available to everyone.
The cynic in me doubts this, but my eager heart wants for it to be true.
We’ve all endured two hard years, years that were full of anxiety and worries about the wider world.
Would it not be wonderful if we had some respite from that at Christmas?
The next verse of the song mentions the sweet sound of bells ringing in the night-time, the excited sharing of gifts, angels playing harps, and the baby Jesus lying in a manger of hay.
These are the traditional sights and sounds of Christmas; melodious music, the gifting of trinkets to those we love, and the Christ child in amongst it all – the cause of all our celebration.
There are only four lines left in my favourite Christmas song and two of them tell of how Christmas will be a festival for the ages, a festival that will last forever.
I certainly hope so as we all need some time to rest, draw breath, and count our blessings in the dark days of mid-winter.
The song finishes with a Christmas blessing, wishing us all a peaceful and restorative Christmas. May we all find a safe harbour for the festive season.
That’s how I’ll finish my last column of the year.
2021 was a challenging year and here in Ireland, Covid is restricting our festive celebrations for yet another year. I don’t know if the same thing is happening with you across the Irish Sea.
Whatever lies in store for you in the coming days, I hope those days are filled with a sense of peace.
That you are among family and friends, and that you take pleasure in each other’s company.
That’s what I would call a happy Christmas.
And if you can find it, listen to my favourite song. I hope it makes your heart sing.