storyThe Celtic community in Halifax gets into the holiday spirit this weekend with Zeph Caissie’s annual Celtic Christmas Show. Recently we spoke with the event’s emcee and narrator Ronan O’Driscoll about what audiences can expect tomorrow night.

What are your own roots?
I grew up in County Kerry, Ireland but was born in Liverpool, England. Both my parents are from County Cork. Because of moving for my Dad’s job, I attended high school in Chicago, Illinois but returned to Dublin, Ireland for university. Later I went to teach English in Japan. I met my wife Lisa there. She is from New Brunswick originally so that is how we ended up in Halifax!

When and why did you get involved with this event?
I was called in at short notice to MC the first Celtic Christmas last year. My wife Lisa is an Irish step dancer and her teacher, Elizabeth MacDonald, put me forward at the last minute. I had a wonderful time as MC, as well as reading poems and even acting! I am really looking forward to this year’s show.

Why is it an important event for the community here?
I think this is an important event for Halifax as there is a lot of Celtic (and particularly Irish) heritage here. It is wonderful to have an opportunity to celebrate that heritage through dance, music and song.

What can they expect this year?
This year’s show focuses on some particularly Irish Christmas traditions – specifically, lighting a candle to welcome visitors on Christmas Eve and the tradition of hunting the Wren on St. Stephen’s (Boxing) Day. This last tradition is still alive and well in County Clare, where my parents live. Locals dressed in outlandish costumes go from door to door playing music and dancing to gather money “for having caught the Wren.” The show will feature enactments of these traditions interspersed with music and dance by some very talented performers.

Will you remain involved in the years ahead?
I hope to remain involved in this great show for as long as possible. It is wonderful to be part of celebrating traditional Irish culture in our fast-paced global society. Personally, I like to play Irish fiddle whenever I can in the pub sessions around Halifax. We have a vibrant and lively traditional music scene here.

Is enough being done to promote and preserve Celtic culture?
In general, there are many great things done to promote and preserve Celtic culture here: the ReJigged festival in October, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and ceilidh, and the Celtic festival in September. In terms of what could be done better, I am sure the many excellent hard-working volunteers at these events would agree that we could always do with more funding and promotion from official institutions.