Thursday, December 01, 2011

Music for the first week in Advent: candle in the window

There is a tradition in Irish households, in Ireland and through the Irish diaspora across the world, to leave a light in the window on Christmas eve, and at times during other nights in December as well. This is meant to show that the holy family, on their journey seeking shelter that Christmas eve in Bethlehem, would be welcome. It’s also meant to show that Christ is welcome here, and that strangers weary on the road this Christmas season find welcome at this home. The Christ candle, we always called it when I was growing up.

Moya Brennan and Mairéad Ni Mhaonaigh grew up in Donegal, in the north west of Ireland. They went their separate ways into top level careers in music, Brennan playing the harp and singing with the group Clannad and Ni Mhaonaigh singing and playing the fiddle with the band Altan. Each has had success as a solo artist, as well. In this video, they are taking a walk on a winter day in Donegal, and they sing a song Mairéad wrote, called Soilse na Nollaig, which you might translate to English as Christmas lights or December lights. It’s a fine song to hear during this first week in Advent.

Moya and Mairéad recently joined forces with two other childhood friends to form the group T with the Maggies, and they’ve so far released one album. They have done several Christmas concerts in Ireland, so perhaps a holiday album may in future. Music Road: from Donegal: T with the Maggies

you may also wish to see
Music Road: Dual: Julie Fowlis & Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh
Music Road: Cathie Ryan: teaching tradition

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


Anonymous Living Large said...

I knew of the Irish tradition of placing a candle in the window, but I didn't know the meaning behind it. Thanks for this post.

11:10 AM  
Anonymous Brette said...

This song is just lovely. And I enjoyed hearing the language very much.

10:53 AM  
Anonymous Jane Boursaw said...

I never knew that about leaving the light on in the window. Much better than Tom Bodette's thing about Motel 6.

4:39 PM  
Blogger MyKidsEatSquid said...

Huh, I didn't know this either. In our neighborhood there are mostly traditional Colonial homes and that's how many have decorated--a single candle in each window. I've always liked that look, now I like it even more.

9:56 AM  

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