by K.M. Churchill
Walking on the edge of myth in Ireland
Snow rarely fell in Ireland. When it did, the dusting was so light that it looked like confectioners’ sugar had been sprinkled all over the green ivy and winter-blooming roses. The joyous, drunken raucousness of the Irish holiday season was upon us and, even with the storm clouds and the early evening spreading out against the sky, our village seemed festive rather than pensive.
People made their way slowly through half-deserted streets. Stopping to chat and admire windows trimmed now with shiny silver, gold and green tinsel roping. In some, there were elaborate manger scenes. Displays of ceramic or hand-carved figurines: Mary and St. Joseph, along with shepherd boys, flocks of sheep, donkeys, camels, and, of course, the Magi journeying. Sometimes there would be a little drummer boy or an angel with a trumpet. All carefully positioned facing a tiny crib that was empty but for a bedding of hay, where the baby Jesus would be placed on Christmas morning. And a gold star, the Star of Bethlehem, hovering somewhere above the scene.
So it must have been a few weeks after our second child had been baptized—first by my mother-in-law using a bottle of Holy Water she kept in her handbag, then in a ceremony at St. Brigid’s Catholic Church on the outskirts of town, across from the bright blue Virgin Mary grotto and the winding rutted road that leads up to the village witch’s cottage.