Xmas is Coming to Dublin

Posted by admin | December 7, 2008 18

North Earl Street, Dublin

I’m grateful to my good buddy on the Blogosphere, Pól Ó Duibhir, for his piece on Soilsí na Nollag, BÁC, 2008 / Dublin Christmas Lights, 2008‏ with his photos of my home town dressed up in its Xmas finery. Catch his excellent site at;


Grafton Street, Dublin

In case you’re curious, this is all the one tree changing colours.

Probably the most famous Irish Xmas Carol is The Wexford Carol (Irish: Carúl Loch Garman). This is a traditional religious Irish Christmas carol originating from County Wexford, and specifically, Enniscorthy (whence its name), and dating to the 12th century. The subject of the song is that of the nativity of Jesus Christ.

The song is sometimes known by its first verse, “Good people all this Christmas time.”

Good people all, this Christmas time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done,
In sending His belovèd Son.
With Mary holy we should pray
To God with love this Christmas Day;
In Bethlehem upon the morn
There was a blest Messiah born.

The night before that happy tide
The noble virgin and her guide
Were long time seeking up and down
To find a lodging in the town.
But mark how all things came to pass:
From every door repelled, alas!
As long foretold, their refuge all
Was but a humble oxen stall.

Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep
Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep;
To whom God’s angels did appear
Which put the shepherds in great fear.
“Prepare and go”, the angels said,
“To Bethlehem, be not afraid;
For there you’ll find, this happy morn,
A princely Babe, sweet Jesus born.”

With thankful heart and joyful mind,
The shepherds went the babe to find,
And as God’s angel has foretold,
They did our Savior Christ behold.
Within a manger He was laid,
And by His side the virgin maid
Attending to the Lord of Life,
Who came on earth to end all strife.

My favourite version is the 1991 album by the Irish folk group the Chieftains with Nanci Griffith – “Bells of Dublin”. This album is named after the Dublin tradition of welcoming in the new year by gathering at the centre of the Old Viking City at Christchurch Cathedral to hear the bella at midnight. The twelve bells of Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin, date back to 1738, and are rung twice every Sunday and also peal on special occasions such as the inauguration of the President. As a tradition the people of Dublin City gather in Christchurch Place to hear the bells ‘ring-in’ the new year. The bells of Dublin are part of the fabric of life in Dublin, as are their ‘voice’ sounds and patterns, and this has been incorporated into the opening piece on the album and made into an underlying theme for the proceedings.

Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin

There is however another substantial Dublin Xmas musical connection as Handel’s Messiah (HWV 56) was first performed in the “Antient Musik Hall” in Fishamble Street, Dublin in a gala in aid of the Foundling Hospital. This is an oratorio by George Frideric Handel based on a libretto by Charles Jennens. Composed in the summer of 1741 and premiered in Dublin on the 13 April 1742, Messiah is Handel’s most famous creation and is among the most popular works in Western choral literature. The very well-known “Hallelujah” chorus is part of Handel’s Messiah. What is also notable about the billboard for the Dublin premiere was that, due to space restrictions “Ladies are requested not to wear hoops and Gentlemen are requested not to wear swords.” Even today there is always a performance of “Messiah” in Dublin before Xmas, normally for a weekly season in the Carmelte Church, Whitefriar Street, where in addition to the paying audience one St. Valentine listens from his resting place below the high altar.

St. Valentine in Dublin


Dublin’s Fair City


Site of “Antient Musik Hall” Fishamble Street, Dublin

George Frideric Handel

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