Tomorrow is what is known as a “bank holiday” here in Ireland, which means most people, especially I suppose, those who work at banks, have the day off. When I asked friends and co-workers why we have tomorrow off, the summary of answers I got basically amounted to “because we do.” And that’s fine. I’m not going to question a Monday where I don’t have to get up to my alarm.
But this is a definite departure from what I am used to regarding holidays in the States. In America, all of our holidays are holidays for a reason:
- January 1 – To celebrate the New Year.
- Martin Luther King Day – To honor the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Presidents’ Day – Most think this is to honor all American Presidents, but technically, the only Pres. officially being honored is our first, George Washington.
- Memorial Day – To honor our war dead.
- Independence Day – To celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence and our freedom from British rule.
- Labor Day – To celebrate the achievements of workers and the labor movement.
- Veteren’s Day – To honor veterans of American wars (sadly, fewer and fewer Americans now get this day off).
- Thanksgiving Day – Kind of self-explanatory, to give thanks.
- Christmas Day – well, of course.
And there are certain things one is supposed to do on each of these holidays. On MLK Day you should volunteer your time, on Independence Day you watch fireworks, on Memorial Day you lay wreaths at the graves of your family’s war dead, on Thanksgiving you eat turkey, etc. Of course, people don’t necessarily do these things. Mostly our holidays are excuses to go shopping or have a picnic and very little thought is given to whom or what we are honoring or celebrating. But there is indeed a reason behind each of these days.
In Ireland, other than New Year’s Day, all the named holidays have religious connotations: St. Patrick’s Day, Easter Monday, Christmas Day and St. Stephen’s Day. And then there are these bank holidays – the first monday in May, June, August and October. Four days off for no apparent reason where I’m not expected to do anything other than not go into work. If I want to volunteer, I’ll volunteer. If I want to have a picnic, I’ll have a picnic. If I want to watch fireworks… well, that one may be kind of hard. But the point is, there isn’t any prescribed activity that I am supposed to take part in tomorrow so I don’t have to end up feeling guilty for not doing it. The time is mine to pass as I please.
They could be on to something here.
Those of you that know me know that I absolutely hate crowds and shopping. Places like Times Square or the Champs-Elysees make me break out in hives. So, imagine my surprise as I find myself falling in love with Dublin’s main shopping and tourist thoroughfare, Grafton Street.
I walk through Grafton Street every night on my commute home and instead of stressing me out, it calms me. I love that it is pedestrian only. I don’t have to worry about any wayward cars or buses, and I don’t have to make sure that I am looking the correct way when I cross the street. I love that it is home to Irish institutions like Bewley’s, but that there is also a McDonald’s (not that I am eating there!) and a Tim Horton’s – these little reminders of home put a smile on my face.
But most of all I love the music. As one walks the length of Grafton Street you get the privilege of listening to a stunning variety of music as various buskers try to earn a few euros. The line-up changes everyday. One recent commute started with an aboriginal throat singer, segued to a trumpeter doing some selections from the American Songbook, then a few steps further on a couple truly fantastic guys singing with an acoustic guitar, then a bassoonist (yes, a bassoonist) and finally, under the beautifully lit up Christmas Tree, some carolers.
How can someone who strives to lead a creative life do anything but smile when hearing and seeing these artists? Yes, some are better than others – the throat singer was a little freaky while the guys with the guitar seriously need a record deal. But they are all out there and, at least in my head, they are doing it because they love it. They are doing it because they are artists and they have to. And I’m down with that. And Grafton Street, I love you for it.
Grafton Street, all gussied up for the holidays.
When it became clear that I would be moving to Dublin, I knew that choosing the neighborhood I would live in was going to be one of the most important decisions of the entire move.
I chose the village of Ranelagh for many reasons – it came highly recommended by people who know Dublin, I only have to go three stops on the Luas (tram) and I’m at St. Stephen’s Green (Dublin’s centre), it has everything I could need within walking distance, and frankly, it’s just adorable. Ranelagh is the type of neighborhood in which I have always wanted to live but could never afford. Here in Dublin, the perfect neighborhood is attainable for someone like me.
Last night was Ranelagh’s Christmas Tree lighting. Normally, I would stay away from anything involving a crowd, but this sounded like fun – Christmas-y, village-y, fun. And it was. This wasn’t some Disney-esque tree lighting ceremony with a laser light show choreographed to Mannheim Steamroller. It wasn’t even as elaborate as some of the Griswold-worthy house decorations one can find on any given neighborhood in the Greater Los Angeles area.
There were 200 people there, tops. There was free mulled wine for the adults and hot cocoa for the kids, as well as mince pies. I’m not sure what a mince pie is, but they must be delicious because by the time I got there, they were all gone.
There was a children’s chorus that sang just slightly off-key, the Ranelagh Singers who were really quite good, and of course, good old Santa Claus. We counted down from 10, the lights came on the tree and that was that.
I loved it.