“Christmas comes but once a year”, they say, to which I always reply, “But Christmas Eve comes first!” Not just because of the fact it comes a day earlier, but because it happens to be my favourite day of the year.
As some friends and colleagues sleep off the night before and relish their lie-ins (which won’t feel as sweet given that Christmas Eve falls on a Saturday this year), I’m up and out the door, observing my own personal tradition of taking a long walk out into the middle of Dublin Bay or, in other words, along The South Wall. The view from the lighthouse at the end of the pier is stunning at any time of the year, but it’s something special on this particular day. Watching the ferries arrive, I like to think of the hundreds of people on board, and the ones I can see braving the elements out on deck waving, coming to visit or be reunited with loved ones and relations. Dublin Airport seems to have this iconic time and the imagery associated sewn up, but there’s something real and grounded about people landing on these shores aboard a ship.
Back on dry land, or at least a couple of miles more inland, I delight in embarking on a journey a lot of people go out of their way to avoid, and that’s the last-minute present shopping mission to Grafton Street. What fills many with fear plants a big smile on my face, and there’s nothing, not even a brolly in the eye or a stressed-out shopper walking on my toes, that can erase it. But shopping is only part of the Christmas Eve Grafton Street experience. I nail that with military precision and efficiency in about an hour with 3-for-2 offers to beat the band, crossing everyone, whether or not they’ve been naughty or nice, off the list as I go. No, this day is all about waiting for the sun, if indeed it ever managed to come up that morning at all, to go down.
Kids all around me are thinking about just one more sleep until the big man in red arrives, while I’m thinking it won’t be long now until Glen Hansard shows up with guitar in hand, smack bang in the mecca of busking, for an impromptu performance of his own in aid of homelessness. But who will be waiting in the wings, or coming around the corner, to join him? Last year, Bono, Hozier, The Script and Kodaline, amongst others, appeared, bringing hundreds, maybe well over a thousand, to watch, bringing the street to a standstill in the process. I think I’ll hope for that line-up again on my Christmas list this year.
Next up, if I can get in the door, my wish will be for a cheeky pint of the black stuff in the cosy in Kehoe’s with a couple of friends who have braved the crowds to meet me, before completing the picture postcard evening with a stroll home along some of the streets that feature in that brilliant Guinness Christmas ad, hopefully with my all those presents still in hand and not left underneath the seat back at the pub. Of course, by the time I get home and face up to the reality that I will have to wrap all of those gifts now (I did remember wrapping paper, didn’t I?), I may well be regretting not “misplacing” them somewhere. Vouchers and gift cards seemed like the lazy way out at the start of December. But at half past midnight, and falling asleep on the couch watching the end of Die Hard, I think if the three wise men were about now, vouchers would be what they would go for. Ah well, until same time next year. Oh, and Merry Christmas, or a Happy Christmas, if you prefer.
One rarely to set foot, or wheel, outside The Pale, Graham knows the streets of this fair city well, having been a bicycle courier in a past life. In his present life, he’s an avid procrastinator, fiction writer and fight fan.
Yes, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. And there’s nothing more likely to get you in the spirit than Christmas carols. Carols have the power to awaken the inner child in all of us. The hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention. You start to feel what can only be described as a warm, fuzzy glow. So at Dublin.ie, with our inner child getting restless, we decided to try and identify some of the very best places to hear Christmas carols. Our first stop is the National Concert Hall. With concerts, presentation and setting can be everything. And that’s what makes Carols by Candlelight on December 22nd so utterly charming. Enjoy an exquisite collection of carols and seasonal classics - all staged in full 18th Century costume in an evocative candle-lit style setting. You really won’t want to miss it.
The Live Crib at the Mansion House is a Dublin Christmas Institution. I have fond memories of visiting it as a child. It was always the grand finale in a day of staring at wonder at the shop windows of Arnott’s, Clery’s and Brown Thomas. The crib, now in its 22nd year has even more to offer the families of Dublin this winter. Visitors to the Live Crib will now walk through a wonderful Winter Wonderland to reach the crib. You will walk by baubles so big you will feel like you have shrunk. You can rest legs weary from Christmas shopping in Santa’s sleigh before posting your letter to Santa through the wonderland’s direct link to the North Pole. Listen closely and you might even hear it whoosh away.
“The Abbey is your national theatre. We are here to tell your stories.” These were the words of Neil Murray, recently appointed alongside Graham McLaren as one of the Abbey’s new directors.
And the Abbey itself has long been part of our city’s story. Nestled in the bustle at the heart of Dublin 1, amidst the comings and goings from Busaras and Connolly station, the Luas clangs past its door, and the Liffey’s squawking seagulls are within earshot. President Michael D Higgins regularly attends opening nights, a straight run for him down the quays from the big house in the park. The last t