Friday, October 8

Selkie Strawboys Are Exposed at Celtic Classic... In Grande Fashion.

By Jeffrey Riedy

So, many of my relatives and friends have been asking about last week's debut of the Selkie Strawboys at Celtic Classic, as part of Celtic Crossroads, which was sponsored by Eastern Pennsylvania Arts Alliance. Let me first just say what an honor it was to present at Celtic Classic. For weeks leading up to the Festival, Selkie scrambled to gather a cast and rehearse The Mummer's Play, and also to create the costumes and masks worn by the Strawboys.

A bit of Irish Mumming history first... Mummer's (or Strawboys or Wrenboys) have historical significance in Irish Culture. Though the details of their origins are at best sketchy and subject to opinion and facts, Strawboys have long served their communities, as entertainment and mystery. Many accounts tell of the goings on of St Stephen's Day (December 26), and how the Mummers would visit house to house, requesting to be invited in, and then to entertain under a cloak of anonymity, with masks of various materials; from gauze drapes, to wicker masks, to masks made of shafts of grain. Other accounts tell of Mummers crashing weddings, entertaining the wedding guests, and even sometimes raising money to help the newly married couple. And the tales go on... The bottom line is that our Selkie Strawboys want to embrace the Irish heritage, celebrate Irish Culture, and along the way educate and entertain.

Over the past week, we have received links to various photos and videos FEATURING our Strawboy Mumming at Celtic Classic. Below I am accumulating all those links in one spot. You can also view many of the videos from our website, , and also from Celtic Classic's Facebook Page, viewing their photo and video collection. ENJOY!

And a REALLY huge thank you to Celtic Classic, Celtic Cultural Alliance, and Eastern Pennsylvania Arts Alliance and its members, for making it possible for Selkie to present the Strawboys at this year's Celtic Classic.


"The Mummer's Play" video

Part 1:

Part 2:

Strolling the Festival:!/video/video.php?v=10150292452845192

Photos on Celtic Classic Facebook Page:!/album.php?aid=514880&id=235507580056

Other Photos:

If you like what you see, and are either interested in joining our troupe of Mummers or would like to inquire about booking The Selkie Strawboys for your next event, Festival, party, parade, or who knows.... read more on our website:

Thursday, April 1

Irish Easter Traditions

Cake dances, herring funerals, and "cludogs" are all part of Ireland's varied Easter rituals.

Easter is the most important date on the Roman Catholic calendar – far more important the Christmas from a religious standpoint. Because Catholicism has been the dominant religion in Ireland, Easter has been almost universally celebrated there for centuries. Over time, many traditions have grown up around the holiday that are peculiar to Ireland.

Although Easter doesn’t appear to be connected to a specific old Roman or Celtic holiday (unlike Christmas and Halloween), it seems related to a variety of old spring festivals that relate to the farming calendar. Given it’s timing in spring, around the Vernal Equinox, Easter is associated with old fertility celebrations which dovetail well into the Christian story of resurrection.

Some of the popular non-religious traditions of the holiday – the Easter bunny and others - seem to have come down from these pre-Christian rites. One such pagan fire festival honored the patron goddess of Spring, the goddess "Eostar" who came to be known as "Ostara". Her feast day was held on the full moon following the vernal equinox (March 21)-an almost identical timeline for the Christian Easter celebration. There is very little documented evidence to prove this, but one popular legend is that Eostre found a bird, wounded, on the ground late in winter. To save its life, she transformed it into a hare. But "the transformation was not a complete one. The bird took the appearance of a hare but retained the ability to lay eggs...the hare would decorate these eggs and leave them as gifts to Eostre." Many modern Wiccans and Pagans celebrate Ostara as a time of renewal and rebirth, a time for celebrating nature and sowing seeds.

Lent, a season of fasting, begins 40 days before Easter. No meat is eaten during this time, though very observant people may choose an additional favorite food or pleasure like alcohol or smoking to give up as well. The last week of Lent, from Palm Sunday until Easter, is when fasting is observed most strictly.

Here’s a list of Easter traditions and beliefs. Some are religious, some purely social and some of seem based mainly on old superstitions:

The name Good Friday is generally believed to be a corruption of God's Friday. In Ireland, since the days of the early church, it has always been dedicated to penance, fasting, and prayer.

As might be expected, it was the severest day of Lenten austerity. Most people went beyond even the black fast prescribed by the church. They ate nothing at all until midday and even then, all they took was three mouthfuls of bread and three sips of water - three being in honor of the Holy Trinity. Little or no work was done on the land, except for the planting of a small quantity of grain or potatoes to invoke a blessing on the crops. The rest of the time was spent making sure the house, yard and out-buildings were clean and tidy.

• Cleaning the house completely (“spring cleaning”), sometimes as a preparation for an old ceremony where a local priest comes to bless the house.
• Planting a small quantity of seed (crops not flowers) to create a blessing on the family.
• Avoiding any possible bloodshed by doing no work with tools.
• Go To Confession and remain quiet for part of the day.
• Holy well water is said to have curative powers on this day.
• Mark one egg laid on Good Friday to be eaten on Easter Sunday.
• If a child is born in Good Friday and then baptized on Easter, he or she will have the gift of healing (a boy born on Good Friday will go into the priesthood).
• Anyone who dies on Good Friday will do directly to heaven.
• Visits should be paid to holy wells and graveyards.
• No fishing is done from boats – only sea food gathered on shore (seaweed; shellfish) will be part of the Easter meal.
• One should get a haircut, to prevent headaches.

Pity the poor butchers in old Ireland during the Lenten season. Not one good Christian soul would buy their beef, or any other kind of meat. The main source of protein for the long days of fasting was herring, because it was cheap and plentiful. But, after eating it so often, people were delighted to see the back of it. So much so, they celebrated with a mock funeral on Easter Saturday.

• Attend church ceremony to have holy water blessed, then drink 3 sips of it for health and sprinkle on family members and sometimes even cattle on the farm for good luck.
• Attend Easter Vigil on Saturday night. The church will be decorated with purple banners. At 11 o’clock, all lights in the church are turned off and a Paschal candle is lit to symbolize Christ’s rising from the dead.

Long ago, the people of Ireland shared a common pious belief with many countries in Europe: when the sun rises on Easter Sunday morning, it dances with joy that the Saviour has risen.

Customarily, families would get up before dawn and make their way to a hill top or other elevated location. Most likely it would have been a place where there was a special holy well. There, they would wait to see the sun do a jig, as it rose above the rim of the earth. For those not wishing to risk damaging their eyesight by looking directly into the brightness, they would look at its reflection in a tub of water.

• Rise with the sun and dance in celebration.
• Butchers conduct a mock funeral in honor of a dead herring. This symbolizes then end of Lenten abstinence. A “herring procession” then marches to the local church. (Some also traditionally whip the herring as part of this odd rite. People were generally sick and tired of eating herring by the end of Lent.)
• Take down the “spoilin meith na hlnide,” a small piece of meat pinned up on the wall during Lent, and burn it to give a pleasant smell to the inside of the house.
• Boil and paint eggs, have rolling contests and egg hunt for children. (The idea of a rabbit laying colored eggs, which lead to the popular “Easter bunny” image, originated in Germany.)
• Conduct a “cludog,” where children gather eggs and roast them on a special device or contraption on the farm. Shells are saved and placed around the bottom of a May bush.
• Celebrate with a “cake dance,” a contest where the best dancer wins a cake.
• Close out Easter celebration with a bonfire where all gather round the celebrate.

Easter Monday

Long ago, the day after Easter was one that Irish people eagerly looked forward to. Not only was it a favorite day for buying and selling livestock and merchandise at fairs and markets, it was also a time for enjoying sports, games, sideshows, dancing, eating, drinking, gambling, and perhaps, even some fisticuffs.

For many years, Easter Monday was also a holy day of obligation in the Roman Catholic Church. That meant one had to go to Mass and abstain from work. All well and good, except that the riotous behavior which often followed during the day and well into the evening didn’t sit well with the clergy. in 1828, the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, Dr. John Doyle, prevailed upon other bishops to petition the Pope to make Easter Monday an ordinary working day. The intention was to disassociate the Church from what was perceived as unseemly fun at the fair. The Pope granted the petition, so that from 1829, Easter Monday was no longer a holy day.

Friday, March 19

"The Secret of Kells"

Images from Cartoon Saloon / GKIDS.
Has anyone seen "The Secret of Kells"? Took the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film?

One of the illustrators for the film has been blogging since the beginning of it's production, from beginning to end and then all of the wonderful reviews it's been getting. So much fun!

Find the blog here:

and The movie's beautiful official site here:

• 2008: won the Directors Finders Award at the Directors Finders Series in Ireland
• 2009: won the Audience Award at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival
• 2009: won the Audience Award at the Edinburgh International Film Festival
• 2009: won the Roy E. Disney Award at Seattle's 2D Or Not 2D Film Festival[5]
• 2010: won the Best Animation award at the 7th Irish Film and Television Awards[6]
• 2009: Grand Prix Award for Best Film in the Annecy International Animated Film Festival
• 2009: Best Animated Film at the European Film Awards
• 2009: Annie Award for Best Animated Feature
• 2010: Irish Film and Television Awards for Best Film
• 2010: Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film

Some reviews for "The Secret of Kells" coming out of Philadelphia:

An animated medieval tale

There they were, the five Academy Awards nominees for best animated feature, announced back in early February: Pixar's Up, Disney's The Princess and the Frog, Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox, Henry Selick's Coraline and, and . . . huh? What's this? The Secret of Kells?

It turns out the Oscars' nominating committee had every reason to honor this dark horse, a little-known endeavor heretofore unreleased in the States. A beautiful, retro-style, hand-drawn feature from Ireland combining elements of 1950s and '60s Disney 'toons (geometric graphics, flat, painterly backgrounds) and traditional Celtic art (intricate, luminously colorful patterns), this spirited children's adventure set in the Middle Ages offers both visual and narrative thrills.

Drawing (so to speak) from fairy tales and illuminated medieval manuscripts, The Secret of Kells is about a young boy, Brendan (the voice of Evan McGuire), who lives in a fortified abbey under threat of invasion by Vikings. When master illuminator Brother Aidan (Mick Lally) arrives, he enlists Brendan to venture beyond the abbey's walls to collect oak berries in the forest, to use for ink in the scriptorium. This innocent-seeming mission turns into an epic quest involving magical fairies, a wolf-girl, and a cat with two different-colored eyes.

The Secret of Kells is gorgeous work, and its imagery and themes dovetail perfectly: a story about creating art, artfully created.

Philadelphia Daily News Review

An animated gem 'Kells,' about a 9th century abbey, deserved its Oscar nom

One of the nice things about 2009's being such a stellar year for animated movies is that it's not over.

Today marks the belated arrival of "The Secret of Kells," which received a surprise Oscar nomination for best animated feature, and a well-deserved one, as it turns out.

The Irish-made (but drawn by animators in some five countries) dazzler opens exclusively at the Ritz Bourse, and is worth seeking out for animation buffs, or those looking for some novel way to conclude a week of St. Patrick's celebrations.

"Kells" is the story of Brendan (Evan McGuire), a youngster at a medieval Irish abbey who, in the days before a Viking invasion, is force

d to decide how to "save" his community and his culture.

The abbey is run by his uncle (Brendan Gleeson) who's wholly committed to fortifying the walls and protecting the citizens. A visiting monk (Mick Lally), however, wants Brendan (a talented artist) to finish and vouchsafe an illustrated religious manuscript.

"Kells" is rendered in an old-fashioned, two-dimensional style that gives new meaning to the phrase "traditional animation."


draws on motifs fro

m Celtic art dating to the 9th century (when the movie is set).

Interestingly, we get few peeks at the artwork in the book itself (clearly based on the Book of Kells, an ancient and finely illustrated work of New Testament gospels).

Instead, Moore weaves these ancient motifs into the design of the natural world that surrounds Brendan's walled city. Against his uncle's wishes, he ventures into the woods to collect berries for the unique dyes that will color the book, and gets help from a magical fairy (Christen Mooney).

This is a way for Moore, a gaelic revivalist (who's set down the story of St. Patrick in graphic novels) to make a point about the way that Catholic

ism blended with existing pagan beliefs to create something culturally unique.

And, Brendan decides, worth saving. The movie's best scenes find him in the mysterious, treacherous forest, wherein Moore and his animators work their visual magic.

"Kells" is noteworthy for its unique, ornate design, its moments of silence (Moore is obviously a big Miyazaki fan) and gorgeous music.

And its distinctiveness. A hallmark of 2009 was (is)

its variety - the best of Pixar, traditional hand-drawn Disney, the stop-motion genius of Henry Selick rendered in 3-D, even contributions from Wes Anderson. "Kells" is the capper, and a lovely one.

Friday, March 12

Best Legs in a Kilt!

Executive Director Jayne will be judging some legs!

Hosted by our good friends of Donegal Square a "Best Men's Legs in a Kilt Contest" will be happening tomorrow, Saturday, March 13th at Noon, outside of their shop located on the corner of Main and Walnut St's in the fair town of Bethlehem, PA 18018.

Rain or Shine!

Best Legs Contest starts at 3pM

Pipers/dancers starting at 12:30 PM

25th Anniversary cake
cutting @ 1:30.

You'll need to register by going into Donegal Square or by registering through e-mail: Include your name, address, and phone number. Unfortunately, this contest is open to the lads only, sorry lassies.

You must be wearing a kilt (at least) when competing. Prizes to be given for the first three best legs.

See you tomorrow!

Sunday, February 28

Happy St. David's Day!

Saint David's Day (Welsh: Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant) is the feast day of Saint David, the patron saint of Wales, and falls on March 1st each year. The date of March 1st was chosen in remembrance of the death of Saint David on that day in 589, and has been celebrated by followers since then. The date was declared a national day of celebration within Wales in the 18th century.
In 2003, in the United States, St. David's Day was recognised officially as the national day of the Welsh, and on March 1st the Empire State Building was floodlit in the Welsh national colors, red, green and white. It is invariably celebrated by Welsh societies throughout the world with dinners, parties, recitals and concerts.
To celebrate the day, people wear a symbol of either a leek, or daffodil. The leek is patriotic, arising from an occasion when a troop of Welsh were able to distinguish each other from a troop of English enemy dressed in similar fashion by wearing leeks. An alternative emblem developed in recent years is the daffodil, used and preferred over the leek by the British Government as it lacks the overtones of patriotic defiance associated with the leek.

The 2010 St David’s Day celebrations in Cardiff will include concerts, a parade and a food festival. Events started on February 26 with the third annual Really Welsh Food Festival in the city centre.
Soldiers from the Royal Welsh Regiment changed the guard at Cardiff Castle's south gate on February 27 and 28. Visitors to the castle on March 1st will receive a free tube of daffodil bulbs to commemorate the day. On St David’s Day, the seventh National St David’s Day Parade takes place in the city centre. Following the parade, a number of Welsh entertainers will perform from a bandstand and in the evening Cardiff Central Library will provide free entertainment and food. St. David's Hall will stage its traditional St David’s Day concert in the evening of March 1st with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, BBC National Chorus of Wales and youth choruses.

Tuesday, February 16

Beoga at Albright College for full event details for more on the band

Tuesday, February 9

Irish Coffee...

Traditional Irish Coffee - Perfect for the coming blizzard...A common misconception is that the Irish Coffee recipe was invented in America the 1950's. In fact the original Irish coffee recipe was invented by a chef at Foynes' port, County Limerick in the 1930's. Foynes' port was where planes on route from Europe to America would stop to refuel before crossing the Atlantic Ocean it was succeded by Shannon International Airport in the west of Ireland. Joseph Sheridan, the chef in question, was seeking a way to keep passengers warm as their planes were being refueled. The Irish coffee was conceived after a group of American passengers disembarked from a Pan Am flying boat on a bitterly cold winter's evening in the 1940s. Sheridan added whiskey to the coffee to warm the passengers. The passengers enjoying the taste of the coffee, asked if they were being served Brazilian coffee, Sheridan told them it was Irish coffee.

Recipe by Noel McMeel- Found on the "Good Food Ireland" website:

Serves 1

Cooking time: 5 minutes


25ml/1fl oz Irish Whiskey
1 tsp brown raw cane sugar
1 heaped tbsp whipped pouring cream
1 hot double espresso with a small measure of hot water to fill the glass


1. Use warmed coffee glasses and add the whiskey.

2. Add the sugar and dissolve in the whiskey.

3. Add the coffee and stir well.

4. Whip the cream lightly but still able to pour.

5. The lightly whipped cream is carefully poured over the back of a spoon initially held just above the surface of the coffee and gradually raised a little as you pour, the cream should float on top.

6.Serve and enjoy

Nic Gareiss- Irish Sean Nos Dance and American Flat-Footing

From Nic Gareiss's Myspace page: A native of the state of Michigan, Nic Gareiss' dancing incorporates footwork vocabulary from many step dance styles to rhythmically accompany traditional music. Nic has studied a broad variety of percussive movement forms, from Irish sean-nós dance, to American flat-footing, to Quebecois gigue. From this wide berth of traditional dance experience, Nic has gleaned figurations, motives and shoe sounds from percussive dance traditions worldwide. When performing with a live musician, Nic engages and reawakens a musical dialogue between feet and instrument. By utilizing imitation, ornaments and contrasting rhythmic patterns, Gareiss really is creating music on the floor.