By Cian Molloy - 11 December, 2016
When we light the Christmas tree in Áras an Uachtaráin, we remember the bereaved who are finding this Christmas difficult; we remember those on the edge, the marginalised in our society, our homeless people, and those who are worried about keeping a roof over their families’ heads.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Áras an Uachtaráin, and in tens of thousands of homes across the country, as the Christmas trees are put up and the lights are switched on.
There are those who see Christmas trees as belonging to a pagan pre-Christian tradition, but others see a lot of symbolism in the sylvan decoration: the evergreen leaves a symbol of the promise of everlasting life; the illuminated adornments a metaphor for the ‘light that shines out of the darkness’. Either way, Christmas trees are very much a sign that the preparation for Christmas has started and are a firm part of our seasonal traditions.
At the lighting of the Christmas tree at the Áras on Saturday, President Michael D. Higgins said: “One of the most important things about Christmas is the valuable opportunity it gives us to enjoy the gift of togetherness; to reflect and realise how lucky we are to be surrounded by those who love us and care about us.
“For many of us it would be impossible to imagine Christmas Day without our families or without the memories we carry of all the traditions that we have built up together over the years. We bring these traditions with us into adult life and, in time, pass them on to our own children and to their children, each generation weaving something precious into the family Christmas story.”
He commented that “In essence, that is the most important part of Christmas; more important than any presents, parties, or even Santa coming down the chimney on Christmas Eve. The coming together of families, friends and communities, and the placing of each other at the very heart and centre of the festive celebration, is what our tree lighting is about each December.”
Referring to those who have moved far from home, he said that “Christmas can be a challenging time for those who are living far away from the country of their birth and who depend on the kindness of new friends and neighbours as they celebrate Christmas in a new country, and a new home.”
President Higgins said that “When we light the Christmas tree in Áras an Uachtaráin, we will remember the bereaved who are finding this Christmas difficult; we will remember those on the edge, the marginalised in our society, our homeless people, and those who are worried about keeping a roof over their families’ heads; we will think of all those who are sick or lonely or feeling sad or worried; we will have in mind in a special way our new Irish community as they recreate precious family traditions here in their new homeland; we will be thinking of our emigrants, especially those who cannot make it home this Christmas; we will be sending our warmest appreciation to members of the Irish Defence Forces who will be absent from home this Christmas due to peace-keeping duties abroad; and we will remember all the wonderful people who will be working this Christmas to keep us safe and well – the Gardaí, the fire service and all the medical staff who will ensure that the sick and the elderly continue to be cared for while the rest of us are enjoying our family celebrations.
“Let us also this evening, and through the season and coming year, remember the friends and neighbours, and colleagues, or school friends who are not as fortunate as us, and let us resolve to reach out to them and to try to make their Christmas a little bit happier and a little bit easier.”
He concluded: “I wish each and every one of you a very happy and peaceful Christmas.”