A New Hampshire Irish Christmas Carnival indeed sounds like fun.
Many of New Hampshire’s residents are of Irish ancestry. Unlike the other ethnic groups who immigrated to our state, most Irish deserted (or had forgotten) their language and customs within one generation. They wanted to fit in, not stick out, and so they rarely passed their traditions down to succeeding American generations.
A scant few lilting words such as conundrum and ginniker (prounced incorrectly as “ginger” by my mom) were left behind and repeated (only two generations from the original immigrants). Reportedly other words such as “Jazz” and “poker,” “sucker” and “scam” are also of Irish origin, but some of those words wouldn’t have been heard by my tender young ears.
As far as Irish holiday customs go, the only one that continued in our family was placing a candle in the window. For safety reasons the candle became a electric light, and they were placed in all the front windows of the house, not just one. My mother told me that it was a custom for the youngest daughter, usually named Mary, to light this candle each year (or plug it in, in our case). My question then directed to my mother was how would you know it was your youngest daughter being born, in order to give her that name? (Wasn’t I cheeky!) My mum replied that maybe it was a strong message to one’s husband that this was the last child! I had to think about that.
I’ve heard a second version of this tradition, that the candle is lit by the youngest child in the family, and then extinguished by any one named “Mary.” This second scenario seems to make more sense to me. You can see how such traditions can easily change over time.
Where exactly does the carnival part of my title come in? This article is my contribution to the 2nd Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture, over at the “Small-Leafed Shamrock” blog. The theme of this month’s carnival is to provide recommendations for favorite books or resources that help in researching Irish ancestors. The good news–these are all free!
IGP Ireland Genealogy Project–http://irelandgenealogyprojects.rootsweb.com/
Boston College – Information Wanted: A Database of Advertisements for Irish Immigrants Published in the Boston Pilot
P.S.: Nollaig shona duit/daoibh! (Happy Christmas to you – singular/plural)