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Ireland - Carlow

Hi everyone, my name is Brian Sheil. I’m from Carlow, Ireland. I work as a music producer. I’m grateful have been asked to submit some of my stories of what it means to be Irish at Christmas time.

Any time I think of Christmas, I’m always reminded of how lucky I have been to have experienced wonderful times as a kid. The older I get, I realise more and more that a lot of kids don’t experience that. No matter what song comes on the radio, even to this day at 31 years of age, I’m always transported back to that feeling of anticipation and excitement of Santa coming, the Christmas school concerts and how they’d go (I did a solo one year of Do You Hear What I Hear, my first and still to this day last public appearance of me singing – it went down well, I think), my family, the food (ok, some things don’t change) and also the religious aspect.

I’m not massively religious, but am definitely spiritual. How could you not be and be a creative person? Christmas mass and the songs I just loved as a kid. I suppose there is a uniquely Irish aspect to that also where a lot of people who wouldn’t normally attend church throughout the year, would attend a Christmas service. Maybe it’s a global thing though, I don’t know. There’s something about that I just love – the hard core non-believers still showing up at Christmas. A deep sense of community, especially those who are returning home for Christmas. Fascinating.

There is a theme in the Home Alone soundtrack that just sonically grasps that so well (1:44 of first song on my playlist). A return to family, no matter where you are in the world. You’re Irish and you really belong here.

I wanted to share with you a Christmas Spotify playlist. I thought it was the best way to express what it means to be Irish at Christmas time. Each song means something to me, and I have the same recurrent thought each time I hear each of these songs.

Finally, when I was asked to do this, the actual first thought that came into my head was the first time I spent a Christmas away from home – everything Christmas isn’t supposed to be about. It was in 2016 and I spent a full month in Santa Monica in Los Angeles including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day right past New Year’s Day etc. – a unique opportunity to live there on my own for a few weeks for vacation in my friend Olivier’s apartment. Don’t worry, I was minding his awesome cat too.

I made lifelong friends from this trip too, particularly the Romero family, the Curran family and Rovero family, amazing, genuine people. But what really stuck out for me was how us Irish travel well and how well liked we are. I was invited to a good few parties/dinners.

I remember thinking a few times walking down 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, ‘Jeez, I’m glad to be Irish’. Not because of all the invitations, but more so in how we carry ourselves abroad and our common decency ways – it’s gets us places (just like that Late Late Toy Show Appeal thing of the recent years). Yes, I did miss home, but not as much as I thought I would and I think it’s because it was crazy sunny every single day, and it felt like Christmas was happening in a few weeks as opposed to right now.

To close, I’m proud to be Irish, not just at Christmas time, but any time. I will always wave that flag wherever I go in the world.

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