Rachel Gaffney’s Letter From Texas - Cork’s Holly Bough Makes Me Feel Good

I cannot recall a day without hearing the words impeachment or Brexit, for quite some time. We are bombarded with the sound of politicians deriding each other, bullying seems to be the norm and people write the nastiest of comments on social media platforms. Words do hurt, along with sticks and stones. I’m tired, very tired listening to it all.

Halloween was barely over and commercials for Christmas trees appeared on the tv. Most people complain it is too early for Christmas but for the first time in my life, I am embracing Christmas like an oasis in the desert and it is all because of a Facebook post I saw on October 31 from the Cork Holly Bough announcing this year’s cover had been finalised.

Something happened when I read this post. The Holly Bough is a Cork tradition since 1897 and I remember this annual being in our home every Christmas but it was not something I read growing up. This was a publication my parents and grandparents read. Now, here I sit in Dallas, 4,500 miles away from Cork City and I am yearning for a copy of The Holly Bough. Memories are flooding and pooling in my brain.

I can vividly recall our annual visit to Crofts in North Main Street for our new Christmas shoes. Probably a good pair of leather Clarks shoes! The much anticipated visit to Santa Claus in Roches Stores. Visiting the toy shops in the weeks leading up to Christmas. This was our time to browse, dream and reach for the stars, garnering all kinds of inspiration for our letter to Santa Claus. For some reason I can remember one of my sisters asking for a school desk and another sister asking for a Tiny Tears doll. I wanted a pair of really good roller skates, the kind with the really good ball bearings you know, not the plastic noisy ones. I wanted those red leather adjustable skates so badly.

On November 1st, The Holly Bough revealed its much anticipated cover.

“The wonderful cover art was designed by Kinsale illustrator Don Carey and depicts a Christmassy scene based on an actual photo of Patrick Street taken more than a century ago.” ~ EchoLive.ie

Looking at the cover, it transported me back to a Christmas when I worked at one of Cork’s best known and beloved butcher shops, O’Donovan’s on Princes Street. It first opened its doors in 1900. My job was to slice cold meats and serve Cork Spiced Beef. People were layered 5 deep in front of each other at the counters waiting their turn. It seemed like there was a never ending flow of customers. I heard every accent the county of Cork had to offer. I met rich and poor alike all with the same love for Cork Spiced Beef. It was a Christmas tradition after all.

Oh that beef. What I would give for a slice of that spiced beef this Christmas. I can almost taste it. I have Christmas cookbooks displayed on my kitchen counter in November. The other day I opened jars of cloves and allspice simply to release the aromas.

Every day I have the Hallmark channel or Turner Classic Movies on in the background. The movies are simpler. Kinder. Slower. I cannot control the outcome of Brexit or potential presidential impeachment. I can however be kinder and I can bake and share with people around me. I can deliver fresh batches of mince pies to friends here and explain they are sweet and not savoury! I can attempt to make the best version of Cork Spiced Beef in Dallas and enjoy the process. Embracing Christmas a little earlier this year is my escape from the external noise and cruelty. The Holly Bough has sparked joy, warmth, love and nostalgia and that can only be a good thing.

There are currently no comments

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment
Not a member? Register for your free membership now!
Or leave a comment by logging in with: