St Brigid’s Day Becomes an Irish Bank Holiday
St Brigid, one of only three female patron saints of Ireland, is getting her own public holiday.
Starting Monday, February 6, 2023, St Brigid’s day will be a recurring public (also known as a bank) holiday to observed annually on the first Monday of every February, except when the first falls on a Friday, it will be observed on a Friday.
The Celtic goddess Brigid (or Bríd) is known for fertility, protection, and healing and is one of the most celebrated patron saints of Ireland. Her cross, woven from straw or rushes, is one of the most common cultural symbols in Ireland, alongside the shamrock and Celtic harp and is believed to ward off evil.
She is most celebrated for founding a monastic community in Co. Kildare, which was open to both monks and nuns, poets, artists, farmers, craftsmen – and most of all, to travelers and hungry wayfarers.
“St. Brigid is close to the hearts of many in Ireland, and her feast day represents the arrival of spring,” Johnny Dillon, a folklore researcher in Co. Wicklow said. Adding, “A knowledge of our traditional heritage provides us with a deeper understanding of our roots, and can, I believe, foster a sense of meaning and belonging which has in many ways, been stripped from us in modernity.”
In Co. Kildare, a Fire & Light walk will be held in the Kildare Town Square on Saturday, February 4, and ‘A Concert for Brigid 1500’ where singer Eimear Quinn will perform a special concert featuring a rendition of her song dedicated to St Brigid, on February 5 at St Brigid’s Cathedral.
At St Brigid’s Garden in Co. Galway, the Lá Fhéile Bríde (Celtic fire festival of Imbolc) will perform “Brigit rituals and traditions including passing through the Crios Bríd (Brigit’s girdle), laying the Brat Bríde outside, and finishing with a fire (weather permitting),” according to event organizers.
Additionally, at the Cliffs of Moher, demonstrations of how to make St Brigid crosses and Bridéog dolls will be available in the visitor center.
Irish Films and Stars Make More Hollywood Headlines
After a whirlwind of acclaim in the 2023 film awards season, more Irish movies and stars are up for further recognition at the 2023 Academy Awards.
Maynooth native Paul Mescal is up for an Oscar in the Best Actor in a Leading Role category following critical acclaim for his portrayal of Calum Paterson in the hit film Aftersun. This heart-wrenching movie offers an intimate peek into a strained relationship between father and daughter, played by Celia Rowlson-Hall.
Up against Mescal for Best Actor in a Leading Role is Colin Farrell for his performance as Pádraic Súilleabháin in the uber-popular film The Banshees of Inisherin.
Beyond Farrell, Banshees is named in several categories for the upcoming Academy Awards: Actor in a Supporting Role (Gleeson), Actor in a Supporting Role (Keoghan), Actress in a Supporting Role (Condon), Directing (McDonagh), Film Editing (Mikkel E.G. Nielsen), Music -Original Score (Carter Burwell), Best Picture and Writing (Original Screenplay).
An Cailín Ciúin (The Quiet Girl) made history as the first-ever Irish language film to be nominated for the International Feature Film Category.
Written and directed by film newbie Colm Bairéad and produced by Cleona Ní Chrualaoi, An Cailín Ciúin is based on Claire Keegan’s short story Foster and has garnered significant attention in the film world. Last week, the film was nominated for Best-Adapted Screenplay and Film Not in The English Language at the BAFTAs, and won seven IFTA awards in March 2022.
An Cailín Ciúin (The Quiet Girl) is a moving coming-of-age story about a neglected young girl, Cáit, whose parents send her from their chaotic and crowded home to spend a life-changing summer at a rural farm with distant relatives.
“We are honored beyond words that An Cailín Ciúin/The Quiet Girl has been nominated for the 95th Academy Awards,” Bairéad and Ní Chrualaoi said of their Oscar nomination. “This is a truly historic and meaningful moment for Irish film, the Irish people and the Irish language.
“Never before has an Irish film been nominated in this category. Never before has Irish-language art been given such a platform. This film has been an extraordinary labor of love and it has been a joy to see audiences the world overtake it into their hearts.”
Brendan Fraser is making his Hollywood comeback following his Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of Charlie in The Whale, his first role since 2009. Fraser received universal critical praise for his performance in The Whale and won the 2023 Critic’s Choice Movie Awards for Best Actor.
An Evening with Colm Tóibín at St. Joseph’s University
Award-winning writer and author of The Magician and Brooklyn Colm Tóibín read excerpts from his new acclaimed memoir A Feast at the Guest on Wednesday, January 25, at St. Joseph’s University in Brooklyn, hosted by Greenlight Bookstore.
A Guest at the Feast is a compilation of autobiographical essays describing his education and upbringing in Ireland – covering topics like cancer, priests, popes, homosexuality, and literature.
He started the night by recounting memories that reflect the essays in his book: beginning with his one glimpse into the 1960’s “Free Love” movement when Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann came to Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford when he was a child.
Hundreds of young people, all with super-long hair and wearing trousers (a shock to the Enniscorthy elders), flocked to his tiny hometown, overcrowding the streets and causing the council to ban children from the event.
Toíbín told stories of his mother’s love of literature, calling back to a memory when she’d asked him to recite Shakespeare monologues in the kitchen at age 12 and calling the works of Yeats and Joyce too “slow” or “dreary”.
Honest and vulnerable about his cancer diagnosis and treatments, Toíbín recounts how differently people treated him in his fragility and a lack of hair: common assumptions that he was homeless, and even denied service from a taxi driver based on his appearance.
In the post-reading Q&A, audience members asked Toíbín for writing advice, editing suggestions, guidance for fictional character development, and his experience writing his memoir.
For more information on A Guest at the Feast, visit https://www.simonandschuster.com
Harry Potter Actress Evanna Lynch to Star in New Play Set in 1980s Belfast
You may know her from her role as Luna Lovegood in the movie series Harry Potter, or the hit indie movie My Name is Emily.
Co. Louth native Evanna Lynch is starring in a new play about The Troubles called Under the Black Rock, set in Belfast in the 1980s.
Under the Black Rock follows Niamh Ryan (Lynch), a woman who gets involved in the conflict and the changing futures of Northern Irish families in her community as it gets torn apart by violence.
Lynch said: “I’m honored to be part of this production of Under the Black Rock, a play that boldly and compassionately explores the topic of violent extremism during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, a period in history that even as a child I knew only to ask about in hushed tones.”
“Even today, it’s a topic you learn to tread lightly around so I was moved by the way this play manages to prompt deep reflection of the past and its bearing on the future. I’m thrilled to be working with Tim and Ben to help tell this story,” she added.
Lynch has been in several plays since her Harry Potter days, and in 2021 played Lucia Joyce in a play entitled Calico for Bloomsday.
Playwright Tim Edge is personally connected to the theme as he worked and traveled in Northern Ireland during The Troubles.
“They have endured so much and deserve the consolation of optimism and relative stability. The play is dedicated to them,” Edge said.
Under the Black Rock is showing at the Arcola Theatre in east London from March 2-25.
U.S. and Ireland Agree to Extend the Ireland Work and Travel (IWT) Program
On Thursday, January 26, Ambassador Claire Cronin and Irish Minister of State for European Affairs and Defense Peter Burke signed an intent to extend the Ireland Work and Travel (IWT) program for the next five years.
The IWT program was first launched in September 2008 to enhance the special ties between the U.S. and Ireland by allowing post-secondary Irish students at a post-secondary level to work in the U.S. in their field of study for a year.
According to U.S. Department of State Deputy Assistant Security for the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs Nicole Elkon, the IWT’s mission is to “increase mutual understanding between the United States and Ireland”, a foundation that “remains vital to U.S. national security and building people-to-people connections.”
Through the program, the Irish government has reciprocal permissions for post-secondary students from the U.S. to pursue employment opportunities and travel throughout Ireland, called the Work and Holiday Program (WHP).
“The Ireland Work and Travel Program and the reciprocal Work and Holiday Program have afforded thousands of Irish and U.S. participants the opportunity to work in their field of study in our respective countries. This exchange enriches their professional experiences, broadens their cultural exposure, and strengthens the ties and shared values that bind the United States and Ireland,” Ambassador Claire Cronin noted at the January 26 signing.
“Today’s renewal is significant both for the opportunities this exchange program will continue to afford participants, and because for the first time we are extending the program for five years instead of three,” Cronin added.
Unlike other exchange and visitor programs, IWT and WHP have no requirements for pre-placement employment and have benefited thousands of Irish and U.S. participants since the 2008 initiation.
“The United States looks forward to finalizing this extension of the Ireland Work and Travel Program and reciprocal Work and Holiday Program in Washington, DC, with an exchange of notes,” Elkon said.