For as long as I can remember Mam lit a candle in the window on Christmas Eve. It was a sign that Mary and Joseph would not be turned away from this house, that the stranger would be welcome. I loved the tradition and continued it when I moved to Leixlip and then Naas. And now with family grown and the whole Christmas decorating thing becoming more minimal, I still light the candle but now over an extended period… usually from the start of Advent through to the Epiphany.
One of the most symbolic acts of Mary Robinson’s presidency was the placing of a light in the window of her official residence in the Phoenix Park.
It resonated, she said, with the tradition of her home town of Ballina, where people would light a candle and put it in the window in the run up to Christmas.
She did it in order to make good on a promise made in her acceptance speech that “there will always be a light on in Áras an Uachtaráin for our exiles and our emigrants”.
The “candle” theme of Máire Mac and tSí’s poem mad it one of my favourites at school.
Le coinnle na n-aingeal tá an spéir amuigh breactha,
Tá fiacail an tseaca sa ghaoith on gcnoc,
Adaigh an tine is téir chun an leapan,
Luífidh Mac Dé ins an tigh seo anocht.
Fágaig’ an doras ar leathadh ina coinne,
An mhaighdean a thiocfaidh is a naí ar a hucht,
Deonaigh scíth an bhóthair a ligint, a Mhuire,
Luíodh Mac Dé ins an tigh seo anocht.
Bhí soilse ar lasadh i dtigh sin na haiochta,
Cóiriú gan caoile, bia aguis deoch,
Do cheannaithe olla, do cheannaithe síoda,
Ach luífidh Mac Dé ins an tigh seo anocht.