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Beat the Black Friday Rush–order KILTED UP 2015 now to give as unique Christmas gifts, stocking stuffers, or as a special treat to yourself. Preview KILTED UP 2015 here and see for yourself why this calendar is so popular!
So, show off your Celtic heritage and support a great charity –buy KILTED UP 2015 today!
Whether sung in Welsh or in English, these beautiful songs bring peace and tranquility to our often hectic holiday season. Though these songs were not written specifically for the Christmas season, they have nonetheless made their way onto many Christmas song lists, and rightly so. The songs are intended to lull children to sleep, but I find that they also allow us adults to take a deep, calming breath amidst our hurried Christmas coming and goings.
Hwiangerdd Mair is a the Welsh version of Mary’s Lullaby, a song written by Jane Siberry:
See the child that Mary bore On her lap so softly sleeping In a stable cold and poor Ox and ass their vigil keeping
Sing lullaby, sing lullaby My own dear son, my child Lullaby, sing lullaby Lullaby, my little baby
Flights of angels ’round His head Sing Him joyful hymns of greeting Peace on earth, goodwill to men Each to each the song repeating
Shepherds kneeling by His bed Offer homage without measure Wise men, by a bright star led Bring Him gifts of richest treasure
One of the most well-known of the Welsh Christmas lullabies, Suo Gân(Lull song in Welsh) is a traditional Welsh song whose composer is unknown. You may have heard it in Steven Spielberg’s 1987 film, Empire of the Sun, where a young Christian Bale (born in Wales) lip-synchs the lyrics. Here is a lovely version sung by Welsh soprano, Charlotte Church:
Huna blentyn ar fy mynwes Clyd a chynnes ydyw hon; Breichiau mam sy’n dynn amdanat, Cariad mam sy dan fy mron; Ni chaiff dim amharu’th gyntun, Ni wna undyn â thi gam; Huna’n dawel, annwyl blentyn, Huna’n fwyn ar fron dy fam.
Huna’n dawel, heno, huna, Huna’n fwyn, y tlws ei lun; Pam yr wyt yn awr yn gwenu, Gwenu’n dirion yn dy hun? Ai angylion fry sy’n gwenu, Arnat ti yn gwenu’n llon, Tithau’n gwenu’n ôl dan huno, Huno’n dawel ar fy mron?
Click HERE to see full Welsh lyrics with phonetic translation and the English translation.
Ar Hyd y Nosor All Through the Night in English, is another of the old Welsh Christmas lullabies that began as a secular folksong. Acclaimed Welsh opera singer Bryn Terfel’s sings Ar Hyd y Nos :
Dating back to at least the 18th century, Ar Hyd y Nos has been translated into English and Breton.
Sleep my child and peace attend thee, All through the night Guardian angels God will send thee, All through the night Soft the drowsy hours are creeping, Hill and dale in slumber sleeping I my loved ones’ watch am keeping, All through the night
Angels watching, e’er around thee, All through the night Midnight slumber close surround thee, All through the night Soft the drowsy hours are creeping, Hill and dale in slumber sleeping I my loved ones’ watch am keeping, All through the night…
Everyone with a drop of Scottish blood knows the party doesn’t start until the bagpiper arrives. The Great Highland bagpipes–a’ phìob mhòr, in Gàidhlig–are beautiful to hear, but a bit large for a Scottish stocking stuffer.
I suggest you give this wee Lego piper instead–he’ll never wear out his welcome!
If you’re gonna play the war pipes, then you might as well have a Highland warrior to answer the call, aye? This Lego Hielan warrior isn’t wearing a Mackenzie tartan, but he can still bellow “to the car!” with the best of them.
In case you’re thinking these Legos are just Scottish stocking stuffers for kids–nope. I’ve seen them on office desks, bookshelves, defending whisky bottles, acting as mascots for pipe bands, even Velcroed to a car’s dashboard.
Shirts also make great Scottish stocking stuffers for women. Click HERE to see the Women Love Men in Kilts design on other clothing and items–Cafe Press can put the logo on almost everything they sell.
Speaking of loving kilts…
You can’t put a kilted man into a Christmas stocking, but our KILTED UP 2015 calendar of men in kilts will fit just fine!
This Scottish stocking stuffer is a two-fer: you get a dozen handsome kilted men to enjoy during 2015 PLUS a portion of the proceeds goes to The Wounded Warrior Project. Donations to WWP help thousands of wounded warriors and their families, as those service men and women return from current conflicts. Click HERE to see a preview of this popular calendar available at Lulu.com.
Authentic Scottish Castle Music is the perfect stocking stuffer for Outlanderfans! This inexpensive cd features lovely Scottish music from the 18th century that you might have heard at a laird’s Highland castle–IF you could time travel through the stones!
Click HERE to sample some of these timeless Scottish songs.
It’s now official–Sam Heughan is America’s favorite British man. BBC America’s Anglophenia blog just held their fourth annual Anglo Fan Favorite Men’s tourney and Sam Heughan won kilts down over fellow Scotsman, David Tennant.
America successfully drove out the mighty British army more than two hundred years ago, but we can’t seem to resist those sexy Scottish men who reach our shores via films and television.
For example, when someone mentions James Bond, your first thought likely is of Sean Connery, the Scotsman who made that role come alive — Connery IS Bond. Now, everyone’s favorite book boyfriend, 18th century Highland warrior James Fraser fromOutlander, has been brought to life by Scottish actor Sam Heughan, and we must say:
we like him, we really, REALLY like him!
Sam Heughan as James Fraser in Starz’ hit show, Outlander-image via Starz
With 32 contestants and more than three million votes cast, Sam Heughan ultimately defeated his closest rival, David Tennant, by a whopping 61% to 39%. That is no small feat by relative newcomer Heughan in light of Tennant’s huge fan following from Doctor Whoand Broadchurch. Click HERE to read fan comments about the agony of being forced to choose between Sam Heughan and David Tennant:
“David Tennant is a stellar actor. But Sam IS Jamie. Can’t we have them both?”
Here’s a brief thank you from Sam Heughan–on location in Scotland– to all the fans whose votes propelled him to victory:
While Droughtlander will continue until April 4, 2015 (when the second half of Season One continues), Starz kind of feels our pain. On the fourth of each month until April, Starz will release a bit of previously unseen footage from the first 8 episodes. Here is the most recent tidbit:
More videos are available on Youtube, and the full 8 episodes can be seen on Starz On Demand.
To truly understand why fans are so passionate about Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser, first read Diana Gabaldon’s books, starting with Outlander, then watch (or re-watch) the tv episodes. You can then make your own decision as to whether Sam Heughan has earned his title as Anglo Fan Favorite of the Year for 2014.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the US, a day for feasting and celebration, recognizing our many blessings and being grateful for family and friends, whether near or far.
All in all, it’s a traditional day not unlike ones celebrated by our Celtic ancestors, pagan and Christian alike.
So, when you are counting blessings before the Thanksgivingmeal, be sure to count the unique cultural gift we share and hopefully will pass down to our children and grandchildren: our Celtic heritage.
Then, after you’re done with all the “stuffing”, relax with the simple gifts of the Celtic harp:
If you’re looking for a good blended Irish whiskey to serve this holiday season, Jameson Irish whiskey may just be the elixir for you.
I’m frequently asked to recommend a whiskey to serve out of town guests who are visiting for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Although I’m partial to smokey, peaty Scotch whisky like Laphroaig, sometimes an all purpose whiskey–which in no way implies ordinary or cheap– that can be sipped with pleasure or added to a cocktail (such as Irish coffee) is the way to go. One of the best known Irish blended whiskies in the world, Jameson Irish whiskey is my choice for a Celtic holiday gathering: smooth enough for sipping, flavorful enough for cocktails, reasonably priced, and available at most liquor stores.
Jameson Irish whiskey makes a wonderful gift for the host or hostess of a party, as well as a stocking stuffer or under the tree surprise for a whiskey aficionado. In addition to the original, there are several other vintages of Jameson Irish whiskey from which to choose. Jameson 12 Year Old Special Reserve, Jameson 18 Year Old Limited Reserve and Jameson 2007 Rarest Vintage Reserve are all mature blends with more refinement and different flavors than the original, but you will pay a significantly higher price. Click HERE or HERE for reviews of these specialty vintages of Jameson Irish whiskey.
By the way, in case you were wondering about my changes in spelling, Irish whiskey is spelled with an “e”, while Scotch whisky has no “e”.
One of the most popular uses of Jameson Irish whiskey is as an ingredient in recipes for cocktails and food. I use it in Irish coffee, a simple, but delicious treat on a cold night by the fire.
There are hundreds of variations on Irish coffee, with many calling for whipped cream on the top of the drink. Here’s the original recipe, which I prefer–the cream is not whipped, just carefully poured on top:
Ingredients (serves 2-3 people)
1 cup Jameson Irish Whiskey
2 cups hot black coffee–I like it strong, but brew to your preference
3/4 cup fresh heavy cream–do not use half and half or your recipe will fail
1 TBS sugar–I use turbinado, but you can also use brown sugar or white sugar**
Pour coffee, whiskey and sugar into large pan and heat over medium -high heat til sugar is blended. Do not boil.
** The tablespoon of sugar is NOT optional; if you leave out the sugar, the cream won’t float on the top. If you don’t want to use sugar, buy a can of good whipped cream and use that as a topping instead of the heavy cream.
Pour equal amounts of mixture into two Irish coffee glasses (click HERE to see the type of glass preferred), leaving an inch or two of room at top.
That was easy, right?
Now comes the tricky part. There are two methodsfor getting the cream to float on top of the coffee; both require a wee bit of skill and practice.
1) Take a metal teaspoon, hold just above the surface of the coffee and then gently and carefully pour the cream over the BACK of the spoon, gradually raising the spoon until you have about an inch or so of cream on top. This is my preferred method (learned it from a bartender back in my college days) and is easy to master after a few tries. I promise–if you added the sugar as indicated, the cream WILL float on top of the coffee.
2) Using a teaspoon, hold the spoon facing up and just touching the surface of the coffee. Carefully and slowly, pour cream into spoon until it overflows, raising the spoon gradually as needed to keep it just touching the surface of the coffee. Again, the dissolved sugar will allow the cream to float atop the coffee mix.
Now that you’ve created your masterpiece, drink your Irish coffee by sipping it through the cream layer.
Sean-nós dancing is a traditional style of solo Irish dance. Outside of Ireland, it is not as well known as stepdancing (popularized by Riverdance). On the Emerald Isle, however, sean-nós dancing is a big crowd pleaser.
In Irish Gaelic, sean-nós (sha[rhymes with Da]-nohs[nohs rhymes with dose]) means “old style” and can be applied to singing as well as dancing. Some say sean-nós dancing originated in the Connemara region, but as the dance style predates modern records, it’s likely that different regions of Ireland had their own, unique sean-nós dance styles.
Stepdancing is a choreographed Irish dance style, where the costumed dancers hold their arms firmly at their sides and do intricate foot movements and high kicks, using either standard soft ( ghillies) or hard (reel and jig ) shoes. Sean-nós dancing is almost the direct opposite: one or two dancers wear casual clothing and street shoes, are free to mover their arms, and impromptu, casual dance steps are the name of the game. Sean-nós dancers do low to the ground foot movements( as opposed to the high kicks of stepdancers) in rhythm to the music, in style called a battering step, which is similar to tap dancing and Appalachian buck dancing. Stepdancers move across the entire stage, but sean-nós dancing is meant to be performed on a small, hard surface, such as a table, overturned barrel or a door off its hinges.
Sean-nós dancer Seosamh Ó Neachtain moves to the music of Laoise Kelly’s harp– watch how his steps change to match the tempo of the music:
Handsome Scottish actor Gerard Butler was born this day, November 13, 1969, in Paisley, Scotland to a Catholic family of Irish descent. Although he graduated from law school, Gerard went on to choose a career in acting, for which we should all be truly thankful.
We can do without another lawyer, but not having The Butler to gaze upon would indeed be a tragedy.
Want to say Happy Birthday, Gerard Butler in Gàidhlig?
“Co là breith sona dhut” is Scots Gaelic for “Happy Birthday to you”.
Roughly, it’s pronounced KO-la brey sunna ghoot.
I was too lazy to look up the Scots Gaelic for “Gerard”, but I think it’s Gearóid, or pretty close to that.
The son of a coal miner, Burton was born as Richard Jenkins, the twelfth of thirteen children. He grew up in a working class, Welsh-speaking household; in fact, the majority of Pontrhydyfen’s inhabitants speak Welsh as their first language.
Richard Burton came to be regarded as one of the greatest acting talents of his day, although he never received an Oscar ( despite being nominated seven times for an Academy Award) and was never knighted. To see a synopsis of 6 memorable performances by Richard Burton, read Wales Online’s new tribute article HERE.
Burton certainly enjoyed the limelight, but didn’t view his profession as a higher calling:
The Welsh are all actors. It’s only the bad ones who become professional.
After playing King Arthur in the Broadway production of Camelot, Burton replaced another actor as Mark Antony in Twentieth Century-Fox’s Cleopatra (1963). It was on the set of Cleopatra that he met and fell in love with Elizabeth Taylor (both he and Taylor had spouses at the time), beginning a tempestuous love affair that would intrigue the public and the media for decades.
Burton died at age 58 from a brain hemorrhage on 5 August 1984, at his home in Céligny, Switzerland, and is buried there. To read more about Richard Burton’s life and achievements, visit the Official Richard Burton website HERE.
I had the privilege of meeting Tommy Makem when he came to the now-defunct Atlanta Celtic festival back in 2000( or maybe it was 2001). He was a charming Irishman, who could tell a tale as adroitly as he played the banjo and tin whistle. Tommy was a legend of Irish music, and he lives on in his songs and in the many musicians inspired by him. Here’s The Dubliners in 1978 performing The Town of Ballybay, written by Tommy Makem:
Born and raised in Keady, County Armagh, in Northern Ireland, Tommy grew up in a household where both parents were performers of traditional Irish music. Tommy emigrated to the US in 1955, eventually joining with the The Clancy Brothers for recordings and tours, becoming hugely popular in America and around the world. Click HERE to see an excellent documentary about the history of Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers.
Here’s a video of Tommy and the Clancy Brothers performing The Wild Colonial Boy (remember it from “The Quiet Man” film ?) on the Ed Sullivan television show in 1965:
Makem was a prolific composer/songwriter whose compositions often became standards in the repertoire of the Clancy Brothers and many other Irish folk groups. Four Green Fields, one of his best known songs, became so popular amongst Irish Folk bands that many mistakenly thought it was an anonymously penned traditional Irish song. It is an emotional, moving tribute to the hardships Ireland has suffered throughout the centuries:
Other well known songs written by Tommy Makem include Gentle Annie, The Rambles of Spring, The Winds Are Singing Freedom, The Town of Ballybay, Winds of the Morning, Mary Mack, and Farewell to Carlingford. Even though many people mistakenly believe that Makem wrote Red is the Rose, it is truly a traditional Irish folk song.
Thank you, Tommy Makem, for your deep love of your native country, for your songs of pride and peace that you shared with the world, and for bringing Irish music to so many of us who first felt that magical pull from Ireland when we heard your songs.
Here are few memes and videos to get you into the spirit this Samhain eve. Just be careful which spirits you let in the door!
Celtic Halloween, when the veil between worlds grows thin…
A history of Halloween in Ireland:
Make way for zombies from Wales! Welsh band Peasant’s King just released a tribute to the ultimate Halloween video, Michael Jackson’s Thriller–that Danny has a dang good voice for a zombie:
Castle Ghosts of Ireland, an excellent BBC video, explores the bewitching castles of the Emerald Isle:
More castle ghosts for Celtic Halloween, rising out of Scotland’s bloody history:
Wales has its share of haunted castles, too:
For the ancient Celts, Samhain was a night when then the wall between our world and the Other World thinned, allowing their ancestors to walk amongst their descendants. The thinning of the veil also allowed the fairies and fae to walk in the mortal world, though, so people took precautions to protect themselves. Lighting bonfires, dancing, offering sacrifices from the harvest, all were ancient Celtic customs that have evolved over the centuries into the night we modern Celts now call Halloween. As Loreena McKennitt sings, tonight is for fun, but also for remembering our Celtic past:
My favorite red tartan reading glasseshave garnered many oohs and ahhs since I bought them a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, they’ve been sold out for months. Now, Amazon has them back– the gorgeous, original red Royal Stewart/Stuart tartan readers and new dark blue and green tartan reading glasses in several strengths.
I am of an age where I need to use reading glasses, and enjoy picking out stylish and colorful ones to wear. Having Scottish heritage, I thought I’d buy a pair of tartan reading glasses to sport at the holidays and Scottish festivals I attend each year. Finding good quality, visually attractive tartan reading glasses turned out to be more difficult than I anticipated, even when I broadened my search to include online sources. Just as I was about to give up, I searched Amazon and there they were–festive red tartan reading glasses with a matching case!
You can find reading glasses for as little as a dollar at some stores ( I have a few cheapo pairs), but the hinges usually don’t last long and the optics are often distorted. I took a chance, paid $25 for the red tartan readers and have been well pleased with them ever since they arrived, courtesy of Amazon’s free shipping. I’ve used them hundreds of times over the past two years, wearing them to parties, Scottish Highland games, antique shopping, etc.
They’ve been to Ireland with me twice, surviving my crazy packing, Irish wind and rain, and numerous horse races, festivals and hikes through the rough terrain of western Ireland. When you stumble across a rare standing stone or the ruins of an old castle, you need good readers to reveal the tiny details–like 13th century graffiti on an old castle wall or Celtic circular carvings on an ancient megalith–you might otherwise miss entirely. These tartan reading glasses helped me do all that and more, and still got rave reviews from ladies at the local pubs.
Happily, the manufacturer is now making the tartan reading glasses in a lovely blue and green pattern that is similar to the Black Watch tartan and the Ancient Campbell and Campbell of Loudoun patterns. Not as festive as the red tartan readers, the new blue and green plaid readers are nonetheless distinctive and elegant.
To purchase either color of tartan reading glasses, click HERE.
They are shipped by Amazon, so you can get free shipping with a qualifying purchase of $35. These tartan reading glasses SELL OUT QUICKLY, based on my experience, so if you want a pair for Christmas or as a gift for someone, you should order now, before the color and/or strength options become unavailable.
Once your glasses arrive, wear them with Scottish pride–and don’t be surprised by all the people, Scottish or not, who’ll want to know where you got those stunning tartan reading glasses!
Corporal Nathan Cirillo (on LEFT) was killed today at Canada’s National War Memorial
Cpl Cirillo was a member of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, a reserve unit of the Canadian army. Created in 1903 by Canadians of Scottish descent, particularly the Sons of Scotland and the Hamilton St. Andrews Society, the regiment took part in both WWI and WWII. Part of the unit’s dress attire has always included kilt and bonnet similar to that worn by the the original A and S Highlanders of the British Military.
Nathan Cirillo poses with tourist in front of Canada’s National War Museum, just a few days before being fatally shot by a Muslim convert. Photo by Megan Underwood.
Many people have posted social media pictures of Cpl Cirillo dressed in his full kilt regalia. He was a handsome young man who readily posed with tourists to the War Memorial. A Facebook paged has been created in his honor–click HERE to visit the page.
Nathan Cirillo and friend in full dress kilt uniform
My heart goes out to his family and friends, and to our Canadian neighbors. When one member of the clan falls, we all grieve, though we may be miles and countries away. I am so sorry this brave man’s life ended so young and in such a senseless way.
As the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada motto says “Albainn gu brath–Scotland Forever”!
This Scottish American is proud to stand with you.
The Glenfinnan Monument stands on the shore of Loch Shiel in the Scottish Highlands, near the town of Lochaber.
This 60 foot tall stone tower was erected in 1815 to honor Prince Charles Edward Stuart and his arrival at Glenfinnan (Gleann Fhionghain) in 1745. It was in this remote Highland spot that Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his royal standard and began a war that would ultimately destroy a way of life for the Highland clans.
The Glenfinnan Monument on the shore of Loch Shiel. Image by Bernard Blanc
On August 19, 1745, Charles Edward Stuart, grandson of exiled Stuart King, James II of England, journeyed from France to Eriskay in the Western Isles of Scotland. His intent was to lead an army of French, Irish and Scottish soldiers into battle against the English, and place himself on the throne of Scotland and England. Bonnie Prince Charlie, or The Young Pretender, as he is often called, traveled to the Scottish mainland in a small rowing boat, coming ashore at Loch nan Uamh, just west of Glenfinnan. On arrival, he was met by a small number of MacDonald clansmen, but within several days more MacDonalds, Camerons, Macfies and MacDonnells arrived to join Charlie’s cause.
Once enough clan support arrived, Prince Charlie climbed the hill near Glenfinnan and raised his royal standard, announcing his claim to the Scottish and the English thrones in the name of his father James Stuart, known as the Old Pretender.
Charles Edward Stuart, by Allan Ramsay, painted in Edinburgh in 1745
The Jacobite cause–and the way of life of the Highland clans– would end in defeat and tragedy just eight months later, at Culloden. The Prince fled after the defeat at Culloden, and was vigorously pursued by the Duke of Cumberland. After being hidden by loyal supporters, Charles boarded a French frigate on the shores of Loch nan Uamh, close to where he had landed and raised his standard the previous year. He would never set foot on Scottish soil again. The Prince’s Cairn (Càrn Prionnsa) now marks the spot where Charles left Scotland, never to return.
The Prince’s Cairn marks the spot where Bonnie Prince Charlie left Scotland, never to return. Image by Colin Smith
The Glenfinnan Monument was erected in 1815 as a tribute to the Jacobite clansmen who fought and died in the cause of Prince Charles Edward Stuart. A wealthy descendant of a Jacobite paid for the monument and it was designed by famed Scottish architect James Gillespie Graham. The Glenfinnan Monument now is in the care of the National Trust for Scotland.
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Nollaig Chridheil is Scots Gaelic for Merry Christmas, pronounced NOLL-EGG kree-yel "Heap on more wood! – the wind is chill; But let it whistle as it will, We’ll keep our Christmas merry still." ~ from "Marmion" by Sir Walter Scott
8 hours ago
Well, that certainly makes Christmas gift buying easy, doesn't it? ;-)