It stood
outside our window
in our childhood years
and watched us grow,
and hid our secrets
and our fears
'neath its holly bough. The holly-tree
was a close-knit
our silent ever-green,
the last to feel
our mute farewell
'way out to school;
the first to meet
and greet us
by the hedge-row
in the sunburst glow
of the boisterous

It is all of a hundred
years or more;
the sower
in Gorthnabroshes
is long-since dead
out in Somerville,
My father often chided me
when a ball
or other missile
thro' its reeds
breaking the circuit
of its fairy beads.

Once every year
it shed some leaves
to the snipping
of the clipping-shears.
Mother stitched them
into fairy boughs,
stringing the streamers
through the house,
giving it a wondrous
and mysterious air
of sheerest joy
and buoyed expectancy.

It was our one
and only
Christmas tree
near the hitching-post
for Santa's reindeer
It watched the candles
flick and flame,
and shed their light,
to bid a welcoming
to the Virgin
and her spouse
on their way
from Teahan's Wood
to our dreaming house,
under the hooded
canopy of night.

Now I see that tree
- again -
from the wonder-window
of my dreams,
and tread softly
on the faded, fallen
spread like inlaid
of hurrying footsteps
down the pathways
of the years.
Withered leaves,
and bent and broken
- reeds -
the Cuileann Muire
on the approaches
to my old home
in Gortnabroshes.

: Tadhg Ua Duinnin.

Cuileann Muire: Mary's Holly

This name was given to the holly used for the Christmas decorations, and collected and stored in a secure place until Our Lady's Day (25th March).
It was then strewn on the paths leading to the house with a view to the warding off of any evil spirits or misfortune for the remainder of that year.
This custom was much similar to that of retaining the palm from Palm Sunday until the fresh palm was blessed the following year.
In the latter case, however, the old palm was sacrificially burned in the fireplace.

The lovely Christmas poem by Tadhg Ua Duinnin and the note about the Cuileann Muire are from Sliabh Luachra, Journal of Cumann Luachra, Vol 1, No. 8, Gneeveguilla, County Kerry, June 1996.

Christmas Box