Merry Christmas to All

Dec 24, 2013 by

Merry Christmas to you, beautiful Celtic people–wishing you a joyous New Year!

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

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Nollick Ghennal–A Manx Christmas Greeting

Dec 24, 2013 by

Happy Christmas and A Good New Year from beautiful Ellan Vannin, the Isle of Man

Nollick Ghennal

Nollick Ghennal

Nollick Ghennal as Blein Vie Noa is Manx Gaelic for Happy Christmas and A Good New Year.

This little castle is known as the Tower of Refuge and is in Douglas Bay, off the coast of the Isle of Man.  Completed in 1832, the tower sits atop Conister Rock (also known as St Mary’s Isle) at the far end of Douglas Bay.  Sir William Hillary, founder of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, moved to Man in 1808.  He  realized that waters of the Irish Sea were too treacherous for any sailor washed overboard to swim safely to shore.  Hillary paid for the small granite tower to be built on Conister Rock, as refuge for sailors waiting to be rescued.   He made sure it provided shelter for  sailors, and also kept it stocked with fresh water and bread.

It’s possible to walk to the The Tower of Refuge when the tide is out, but it is not advised, as the tide comes in quickly  and could leave you stranded.  Locals recommend you view it from a distance, just to be safe.



Isle of Man Steam Packet Company vessel, Mona aground on St Mary’s Isle, July 2nd, 1930.

The Tower of Refuge, Isle of Man

The Tower of Refuge, Isle of Man


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A Scots Gaelic Christmas Greeting

Dec 23, 2013 by

Would you like to wish someone a Merry Christmas in Scots Gaelic? Here is the basic holiday salutation for you to try:

indexsgc2Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, in Scots Gaelic is Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna mhath ùr.

It is (roughly) pronounced “Nollik hree-hel ah-gus Blee-una va oor”.

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Christmas Trees and Santa’s Kilted Helper

Dec 12, 2013 by

THE KILTED HOTTIE OF THE DAY–Christmas tree shopping is always more fun when Santa’s helper dons a kilt…

Santa honey, one little thing I really need…
The deed… to a platinum mine, Santa baby,
So hurry down the chimney tonight.

Santa cutie, and fill my stocking with the duplex and checks;
Sign your ‘X’ on the line, Santa cutie,
and hurry down the chimney tonight.

Come and trim my Christmas tree with some decorations bought at Tiffany;
I really do believe in you;
Let’s see if you believe in me…

Santa baby, forgot to mention one little thing… A ring…
I don’t mean on the phone; Santa baby,
So hurry down the chimney tonight

Hurry down the chimney tonight
Hurry, tonight!


SANTA BABY,  originally recorded in 1953 by the divine Eartha Kitt


Here’s a lovely cover of  Santa Baby, by Celtic Aussie songbird, Kylie Minogue–her dad has Irish roots, and her mom is Welsh:

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Have a Merry Viking Christmas

Dec 5, 2013 by

Tis the time of year to have a very Merry VIKING Christmas!

Long before Santa Claus first drove his sleigh with eight tiny reindeer, his Viking ancestor, Jólnir, was flying through the wintry Scandinavian night on his eight-legged steed, bringing bread to people in need.




It’s true, beautiful Celtic people–Santa used to be a Viking– a Viking god, no less–and the earliest Christmas was a Viking Christmas.

The origins of our modern Christmas icons can be traced back to pre-Christian times, when the pagan people of northern Germanic and Scandinavia held feasts in honor of Odin, the warrior god of Norse myth, who also bears the names jólfaðr (Old Norse ‘Yule father’) and jólnir (Old Norse ‘the Yule one’).  When Vikings began to first raid, then settle in England, Scotland, Ireland, the Isle of Man and Wales, they brought their Yule traditions with them, and those customs were adopted by the native Celtic peoples, many of whom married and raised families with the Vikings (and that is how many of us Celts wound up with Scandinavian DNA in our family trees). Those adaptations are why you often hear Christmas referred to as Yule or Yuletide in the Celtic countries, and it is where we get our Yule log and yule ham (which used to be a boar sacrificed to Freyr) traditions.

In Scandinavian culture, Yule, as the celebration held at the winter solstice became known, was the time for Odin/Jólnir to drive back the Frost Giants and to lead the Wild Hunt across the skies, cursing those who mocked and rewarding respectful observers with gold. Odin also demonstrated benevolent qualities at Yule, disguising himself in a blue cloak and riding eight-legged Sleipnir to earth, where he left loaves of bread for anyone in need. At Viking Christmas time, children began to leave a straw-filled boot for Sleipnir by the hearth, hoping Odin would reward them with a treat placed in the boot. Sound familiar?

Of course, the advance of Christianity changed the way in which Yule was celebrated–as even Viking leaders began to convert, Christmas was substituted for Yule in the halls of kings and homes of more humble Northmen and Celts.  The Svarfdæla saga records a story in which a berserker put off a duel until three days after Yule to honor the sanctity of the holiday.

Grettis (Grettir’s) Saga is set soon after Iceland converted to Christianity and identifies Yule with Christmas:

“No Christian man is wont to eat meat this day [Yule Eve], because that on the morrow is the first day of Yule,”

says she, “wherefore must men first fast today.”

The Story of Grettir The Strong, Chapter XXXII, translated by Eirikr Magnusson and William Morris.


Jólnir, the grey-bearded Giftbringer, also fell out of favor at Yule, giving way to Father Christmas, then Saint Nicholas and ultimately, Santa Claus. Bye, bye, Viking Christmas, hello commercial holiday.

The links between Jólnir and our modern Santa, however, are still evident:  both have grey beards; both ride through the sky at night (in North America, the horse has become reindeer);  both wear cloaks, although Santa’s is usually red, not blue (thank you, Coca Cola marketing execs, for cementing that image in our minds) ; both leave gifts at the hearth, though the boots are now stockings, and the candy and food has been replaced mostly with toys, again thanks to marketing execs and credit card companies-there’s not nearly enough profit in food gifts, you know.



So, as you pass Santa in the street, or sit on his lap, or stare at his image everywhere (it seems), think on this pagan variation of the famous poem from Clement Moore, A Visit From Saint Nicholas” (aka”Twas the Night Before Christmas”):

A Viking-Asatru Christmas Carol

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the Hall
Not a creature was stirring, not warrior nor thrall.
And I in my armor, my greaves and my helm
Was drunker than anyone else in the Realm.

I staggered upstairs and fell into bed
While four quarts of mead were ablaze in my head.
Then up from below came the sounds of a brawl
So I grabbed up my axe and ran down to the Hall.

I missed the last step and crashed down in a heap
Thinking, “Why can’t those low-lifes downstairs go to sleep!”
When what to my wondering eyes should appear
But two brawny strangers, wielding mallet and spear.

I said to myself, “We’ll soon have them beat!”
Then I noticed ten warriors laid out at their feet.
I gave out a yell and leapt into the fray…
I’ll always regret my poor choice of that day.

For the one laid his hammer to the side of my nose
And up, up, up to the rafters I rose.
Then came a lone frightened voice from the floor,
“Those are no mortal warriors — that’s Odin and Thor!”

Then they looked at each other and they said, “Battle’s done.
Now they know who we are, it no longer is fun.”
Then Thor raised his hammer, and his elbow he bent,
And with a loud crash, through the ceiling they went.

I crawled through the Hall and flung open the door,
Not really sure that I’d seen them before.
The snow bathed in starlight, the moon like a glede,
I saw them ride off on an eight-legged steed.

And I heard them exclaim, ‘ere they flew out of sight,

author unknown

Have A Very Merry Viking Christmas, Y’all!


~As an aside: our image of Santa today is based mostly on the drawings created in the 1860’s by political cartoonist, Thomas Nast, who was quite “nast-y” about some Celts–he despised the Irish, Catholics and Irish immigrants in America, a racial bias he flaunted in his cartoons depicting Irish people as ape-like and stupid.

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Top 10 Celtic Christmas Albums All Celts Should Own

Dec 4, 2013 by

Top 10 Celtic Christmas Albums All Celts Should Own

Here’s a joyful selection of traditional Celtic Christmas music for the holidays, featuring bagpipes and harps, carols and chants, Gaelic and Welsh and much more.  Click on the blue links for details about each album–most are available in CD and MP3 formats.


51qa4yUccoL._AA160_101 Welsh Carols & Christmas Songs

Welsh, like Cornish and Breton is a Brythonic/Brittonic language that is Celtic, but is not Gaelic, with a lilting, melodic quality that is one of the most beautiful things you’ll ever hear.  This large collection of carols and songs in Welsh(most are just 1-2 minutes long) provides a rare  Christmas treat to all Celts, especially those with Welsh heritage.






Brittany Carols

The spirited L’Ensemble Choral du Bout (the Chorale Ensemble of the World’s End) formed in 1977 to preserve the Celtic musical heritage of Brittany, a Celtic region in northwest France. Comprised of two smaller regional choirs as well as singers from over 40 villages, the ensemble offers a lighter alternative to the slower, more solemn albums of Christmas church music. Recorded at Landévennec Abbey, this CD has an ancient, Celtic feel with instrumentation from flutes, claviers, bagpipes, guitar, and organ while often feeling contemporary during the livelier, melodious songs.





51t21lDygdL._AA160_The Virgin’s Lament

This album brings light and peace to my dark winter days every holiday season–Christmas and the Winter Solstice simply cannot be celebrated until I hear ” The Virgin’s Lament “.   Nóirín Ní Riain adds her lovely Irish soprano  to the monks of Glenstal Abbey in a collection of medieval Celtic religious songs in the sean nos or “old style” tradition–subtly varying enunciation and tempo. Singing in Gaelic and Latin Gregorian plainchant, Ní Riain’s voice delicately wavers and flies throughout Limerick’s Glenstal Abbey, creating an angelic and purely holy atmosphere.  Definitely one of the finest albums of sacred ancient Celtic music you will ever hear, and one you will want to share with friends and family.






51gKEP0Do5L._AA160_Duan Nollaig (A Gaelic Christmas)


A beautiful collection of Christmas songs, sung in Scots Gaelic by the talented singer songwriter Fiona MacKenzie, from the Isle of Lewis in Scotland.  It’s rare to get such a large collection of Scots Gaelic songs on an album–this one is a must-have for anyone who loves the native language of Scotland.




51BjyFlH2XL._AA160_Celtic Christmas Sampler

A Windham Hill collection that features holiday and winter songs by many well-known performers in the Celtic music genre. Fans who remember Planxty, the Bothy Band, Silly Wizard, and Capercaillie will embrace the performances here by individual members of those critically acclaimed and popular groups. Nightnoise singer Triona Ní Dhomhnaill, who was once described as one of the greatest voices of the century, sings a haunting piece called “Solus,” while her brother and former Bothy Band fiddler Kevin Burke create an enchanting place on “On a Cold Winter’s Day/Christmas Eve.”




51fDVo6uzQL._AA160_Chieftains Christmas

Probably the greatest Irish trad band of all time,  the Chieftains team up with rockers Jackson Browne and Elvis Costello, actor Burgess Meredith,  bluegrass musician Nanci Griffith and other celebs on this hugely popular and critically acclaimed  Christmas album.




41SVZKP4RYL._AA160_Wolcum Yule: Celtic and British Songs and Carols

Beautiful selection of 19 traditional songs from England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, from ancient chants to more contemporary songs.  Featuring the group Anonymous 4, this disc includes a traditional Cornish wassail song, medieval chants, haunting numbers like “Flight into Egypt,” sung in Gaelic, and “Behold, here is the best morning,” sung in Welsh.






51JQ4SZ2VFL._AA160_  A Highland Christmas

A festive bagpipe extravaganza for those who love the sound of the Great Highland Pipes–and what Celt doesn’t?!




A Scottish Christmas

Fiddle virtuoso Bonnie Rideout,  Maggie Sansone, hammered dulcimer artist and  Eric Rigler, the Braveheart piper, join forces on this lovely collection of traditional Scottish carols, wassail tunes, strathspeys and reels.






414ZMF56QWL._AA160_Narada Presents: The Best of Celtic Christmas

A captivating double disc packed with fiddles, flutes, and Celtic music’s brightest stars! Ireland’s best-loved traditionalists sing their favorite Christmas carols on disc one (each tune features a different lead instrument or vocal): It Came upon a Midnight Clear Cathie Ryan; Get Me Through December Natalie MacMaster; The Snowy Path Altan; The Mummer’s Jig/Christmas Eve Boys of the Lough; Ding Dong Merrily on High Frankie Gavin & the Irish Chamber Orchestra; Christ Child’s Lullabye Kathy Mattea (yes, the American country singer!); Ceol NaNolag John Whelan, and more. Disc two highlights the award-winning Galway group Dordan with a collection of jigs and carols, many sung in Gaelic! 30 festive, thoughtful tunes in all.



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