It is only when we are free as God meant us to be that Christmas in Ireland will be the loveliest time of the year, with gladness and true rejoicing in every heart, with laughter and hospitality in every home, with Gaelic song, story and dance and the music of píopáil and fidil and cláirseach; and the proud memories in every mind of the men and women who walked the hard ways of sacrifice and suffering that those who came after them might have many a happy Christmas in a free Ireland.
There will be talk in every gathering of the association of Christmas with the long struggle for independence. Some will tell of Aodh Ruadh Ó Domhnaill and Art Ó Néill and their escape from Dublin Castle on a Christmas Eve and their wanderings across the snow-covered mountains above Áth Cliath. Others will tell of the Midnight Mass in Penal Days, and other still of the time Tone and the French arrived at Bantry Bay one stormy Christmas, of his heartbreak when he could see the houses on the Kerry hills but could not reach land.
And there will be talk of the Christmas after 1798, 1803, 1916 and 1922 when hearts were sad with grief but glad with hope – when always and ever their thoughts turned to the Eternal King and Lord of Christmas, the outlawed, homeless Babe of Bethlehem.
There will be talk, too, in that free Ireland of the future, of those great and splendid men who in Christmas season were called upon to give their very lives, the blood of their hearts, that the cause of Irish Independence might live on, that it might not go down in final defeat; and O, the love that will be expressed for them by young and old as one by one their names are spoken. Not sorrow but gladness and pride will be evoked by their story in the free Ireland for which their glorious God-like sacrifice was made.
In every assembly, big and small, someone will call to mind the words of Pádraig Pearse about laughter and the heroes of the Gael, of the men who were so clean of heart and so sure of the justice of their cause that they could endure exile and imprisonment and even death with a smile on their lips and a throb of secret joy in their hearts: ‘Laughter is the one gift that God has given to men, but denied to brutes and angels. Laughter is the crowning grace of the heroes.’
Now that it is Christmas, and that God is still in heaven and our martyrs ready there to bear the petition of our hearts to Him, let us ask for this persecuted, unbeaten land of ours the light of Independence and peace and happiness before Christmas comes again.