A special event to celebrate the Winter Solstice and the living history of shared festive traditions has been held in Cushendun.
The morning of poetry, song and conversation to mark Nollaig, Yuletide and the shortest day of the year was held at the Old Church Centre.
Part of Council’s Hear Here Programme, which explores Ulster Scot and Irish culture, tradition and heritage, the event was organised by Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council’s Good Relations team in partnership with local organisations Glór Na Maoile, CCÉ Dhun Lathaí and Gaeil na Glinntí.
Welcoming the event, the Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Councillor Richard Holmes said: “Our Borough has a vibrant history, and it is through events like this that we can highlight and embrace the culture and traditions that make up the diverse nature of our communities.”
“My thanks go to everyone who participated, and to those who led the events which brought people together through our shared heritage.”
Guests heard from Niall Comer, a lecturer in Irish at Ulster University and president of Conradh na Gaeilge, who talked about the folklore and tradition of the Wran which is celebrated in several countries across Europe on St. Stephens Day.
Niall also spoke about Celtic and Scottish influences on local traditions, such as the origins of bringing of coal over the threshold by a dark-haired man at Hogmanay and the customs surrounding lights and candles during the winter season.
Niall said: “I was delighted to be invited to take part in this event. Our discussion on Christmas traditions and exploration through poetry and song of our common heritage was a welcome relief in trying times.”
Traditional music, including seasonal songs from the Sam Henry collection provided by Council’s Museum Service, were performed by Deirdre Goodlad and the local Comhaltas.
Deirdre from Glór Na Maoile said: “Gathering people together with a theme of Nollaig, Yuletide and the Winter Solstice opened many conversations about both old and new traditions and customs.”
“People explored their own connections to our traditions, and the response to the poetry, songs and music was inspirational, highlighting that this is an event residents would like to see return in the future.”
Anne McMaster, an ex-farmer, theatre director, playwright and now poet, spoke about the importance of culturally traditional festivals of fire and light and how they have historically connected people to nature.
Anne, who read some of her poems exploring this time of year, alongside darkness, light, fire and nature, said: “This welcoming event gave guests a fascinating insight into many of the rituals and traditions of Christmas. It was an absolute delight to take part in the carefully curated mixture of music, song, Christmas tales and poetry in the stunning surroundings of the Old Church Centre.”
The Hear Here programme will continue with an event to mark Burns Night in January, with details to be confirmed in line with Covid guidance.
To find out more about the Hear Here programme, email [email protected]