Traditions are what make Christmas special for a lot of people. For me it’s decorating the tree, helping my mum with her cooking, my Christmas Eve Chinese (weird, I know) and ‘Ireland in Christmas Praise’ by New Irish Arts.
Norma Harpur. This is a name that the vast majority of you reading this will not know. However, I have come to realise that what I write, if it helps me or just one other person, then it’s worthwhile doing. Norma died last week, aged just 62, surrounded by three of her friends, one of which was my mum.
My last tradition of the Christmas season took me to Lagan Valley Island in Lisburn for ‘Sinbad The Sailor’, the annual pantomime from the Lambeg Players. My first experience of their annual pantomime was way back in January 1993 and we have been going as a family ever since, with this year being my 25th outing.
I’m always wary of the term “amateur dramatics”, as The Lambeg Players are anything but amateurs. They were formed in 1966 by the late Clifford Boyd OBE and rehearse in Harmony Hill Presbyterian church. As well as their annual pantomime, they perform several plays throughout the year, including a week at the Portrush Summer Theatre.
Everyone has different things they do at Christmas, and that is what makes it unique for each person. My traditions vary from the oldies, such as my Christmas Eve Chinese (don’t ask), to my more recent ones, such as seeing ‘Ireland in Christmas Praise’, performed by New Irish Arts.
If you haven’t heard of New Irish Arts before, they were formed in 1994 by the very well known contemporary hymn-writer Keith Getty. They continue to go from strength to strength and now have several hundreds members in both a choir and orchestra and they formed a Youth Choir a few years ago.
If you have been a follower of this blog for a while, you will have worked out that I am a big fan of New Irish Arts. Indeed it has gotten to the stage where members of the group refer to me as some sort of “groupie” and I think some start and get a bit nervous when I don’t show up to things.
It’s because of my (strange??) fascination with all things New Irish that I ended up in the Waterfront Hall last Saturday night for the 60th anniversary concert of Operation Mobilisation (OM).
I had just gotten into bed on Monday night, stuck my phone on charge and left it on my beside table. It buzzed and something made me check it. It was a notification from Sky News and told of some sort of on-going incident in Manchester. I watched the rolling news for a while before I fell asleep.
When I woke up, I put the radio on and my heart sank, as it did after the 7/7 bombings and the more recent attacks in Nice, Paris and London. Some “man” decided that a group of young people out enjoying themselves, possibly at their first ever concert, were legitimate targets for his bomb.
I have several Christmas traditions. Some of them are strange, such as having a Chinese for dinner on Christmas Eve, but most of them are perfectly normal, such as always going to get our Christmas tree with my mum. One of my more modern traditions is heading to the Waterfront for Ireland in Christmas Praise, presented by New Irish Arts.
I first visited Katch 27 in Kircubbin in May with Maria, the niece of our former Spanish neighbours. She was boarding in Victoria College and my parents became her guardians when our neighbours, Pilar and Alejandro, moved back to Spain.
Alejandro and Pilar are over staying with us for a few days and following Maria’s positive comments about Katch 27, we decided to take them there for Sunday lunch.
Pilar, Alejandro, mum, dad and me