My Christmas Childhood

Little Christmas

January 6th the first day of the Epiphany, the 12th day of Christmas, also known as Little Christmas. This day signalled the end of the Christmas holidays for the school children.

The following poem recalls the time when a holy day was rigidly adhered to, plus the fun of the last day of the holidays.

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Little Christmas

It always snowed on Little Christmas
Nollag na mBan
Church bells intertwined with snowflakes
And our house filled with ringing
The crib and the Three Wise Men
Gold frankincense and mrrh
I an alter boy
In my white surplus and black sutane
Again the Latin
Into ibo a daltra Dae
Ad Deum qui laetificat
Juventutem Meam
The tourable and incense
Purifying the Church
Welcoming the light

The beginning of a new beginning
After the gospel
The Very Revered P J Doyle PP
Climbed the pulpit
Fixed his eyes on the congregation
The seer and the seen
The coughing stopped

The book opened
Christmas dues
Before the reading
the viewing
The church and its people
to the left the poor
In the canter working people
Right to The Reserved Isle
The traders and professionals
Paying the pew rent for the privilege

His first utterance of a thousand utterances
Over his glasses he preyed them

Will you people in the Reserved Isle
Who have not paid your pew rent
Please leave your seats immediately
I am looking at you
I know who you are
Nobody moved
Again he pasted the issue
Again he pasted the issue
I said immediately

Again nobody moved
Faces red with shame
Hidden under a battered fox skin
Or mink that had seen better days
A class beneath a class
He mumbled a few castigating word

I will name you next Sunday
Then the Christmas collection
He began on the estates
Abbey Road Abbey Terrace Abbeyfield
Saint Bridgets Terrace Highland View
Tower View Sallins Road and Basin Street
1 Nan Dwyer Eddie Broe Peter Fullam Michael Roe
Ten Bob John Butler Raymond O'Brien Ann Burke
Five Bob Tommy Allison Martin Clarke
Then the jumble of fifty other names
Half Crown Guilfoil and incoherent

He ploughed through the list
Neighbours waiting for Neighbours
As they picked out the contributions
The mystery of identification
Mrs. Maguire only gave five bob
The mean Hussy
He went through the long dialogue
Then paused

10 Mrs. Bridget Boughal
A widow from Basin Street
She had given all she had
A true Christian of the gospel

Then to Main Street
Where he was always short changed
They were in the Reserved Isle

Some of you over in the Reserved Isle
Have not paid your pew rent
I will be publishing you next Sunday

Will those who have not paid
Go else where in the church
His voice easier as he waded
Through the 1 the 2 and the 5
After the exhaustive bout
With little revenue to show for it
He took a deep breath
Again over his glasses roared

Women of Naas
You are a disgrace
Receiving the body and blood
Of Our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ
Dressed like Maharani
Painted like wild Indians
Gypsies with bangles and jewels
Dangling from your ears

Women of Naas
Wash your faces
Again into the melodeon of offerings
After exhaustive bouts of incoherence
A deep breathe

Ten pounds Mrs. Bridget Lawlor
She could afford a hundred
But at last it was all over

Exhausted he attended his next duty
The wedding for working people
Without his polyphonic choir
But a simple exchange of rings
The pronouncement
Is anyone present aware of any
Consanguinity Affinity or Spiritual relationship

Why these two should not be joined together
The groom inquired with consanguinity was
The priest
If it bit you
You would know it
A smile for the first time
However it was pay time for mass servers
I followed the best man around the church
Reminded him of his duty
He handed me a penny
I said the price was ten bob
He dug deep took out a ten bob note
Saying that the Father Doyle
And the mass servers had robbed him
I divided it up among the other servers
We emptied Murphy's of Bulls eyes

Home for breakfast
Afterwards out into the snow
The snowball fights from the railway bridge
Our gang Miggie, Gresso, Barber Lockey and Skut Hayde
Challenged the spikers led by the Grazier Higgins
His warriors Baldy Carwx Spider and Ginx Curtis
We parted them form the bridge
Grazier saw himself as Cochiese
He howled the Indian battle cry
Leading his army a desperate struggle
Our major plot was to shower them with snow from a tree
It backfired and turned Skut Hayde into a Snowman
We shook hands and went tobogganing on the Lacken

Afterwards we covered the road with water
Spent the night sliding
On out hobnailed boots
Mrs. Byrne roared for Charlie to come in
It was time to go
I slid home on the diamond road
And readied myself for school next day