“Echo… Holly Bough, Echo… Echo… Holly Bough, Echo…”
You can’t help but be transported by those words. In your mind, was it David Hogan’s chant outside the GPO you heard? Or perhaps you were rubbing your hands against the cold on Pana as you heard Michael O’Regan’s booming voice? Either way, you were in the heart of Cork city at the most magical time of year: Christmas.
The city centre is a changed place this year but some traditions are hard to quell. The Holly Bough is still being sold, there are queues for spiced beef at the English Market, the windows of Brown Thomas are decked out to the nines and the Christmas lights are twinkling overhead. Sadly, many of our locals who are scattered around the world are unable to come home this Christmas due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Whether it’s in Kansas, Kuwait or as far from Cork as you can possibly get (Kerry), Corkonians will be trying to recreate the magic of their home and the special memories they’ve cherished from festive times past.
Its official! Christmas is happening in Cork. The Christmas Lights are on and are glowing!🤶🤶🤶 pic.twitter.com/m5ZbNlyXyA— Glow Cork (@GlowCork) November 18, 2020
Of course, the real joy of Christmas comes from spending time with the people you love. While your heart might ache from the absence of someone dear, it’s important to remember that physical distance doesn’t need to mean an emotional one. Send them a Christmas card filled with love. Take out your phone to FaceTime or ring them wherever you are. Let them know you love them and miss them and make sure you reconnect in a new way at the most wonderful time of year. After all, that’s what Christmas is really about (and it’s not just a Cork thing, though we’ve perfected it).
While we can’t wave a wand and transport you to Cork for Christmas, we have discovered the next best thing. From spicing your own beef to enjoying the panto with your family, we’ve found the best ways to recreate your Cork Christmas traditions anywhere in the world.
There must be ain every home in Cork around now? A constant feature in our festive traditions for the past 123 years, the publication features stories, songs, history lessons, titbits of information, puzzles and, of course, the infamous Diffney quiz. This year’s cover was designed by Jason O’Gorman of Dynamite Studios, who has focused his work on Christmas in Cork in the past. His ‘Corkmas’ Christmas cards feature a Christmas tree made of landmarks from the city and last year sales of the cards raised more than €1,200 for Cork Simon Community.
Jason says he was honoured to design this year’scover: “The is such an iconic Cork publication, it’s been in our house every Christmas since I was a kid."
“The covers over the years have been amazing and I honestly felt like my own effort would be pale in comparison. I tried my best and I hope I’ve done the cover justice, but more importantly — I hope I’ve captured the spirit of Cork and lifted people’s spirits for Christmas 2020.” Theis known for popping up around the world. editor, John Dolan, says the has always been there for Cork people who are abroad for Christmas.
"Thehas been a tradition in Cork for 123 years and one of the secrets of its longevity is that it has long provided a little piece of home to emigrants and the diaspora around the world.
"So many people tell me they order several copies and post them out to family and friends. Christmas can be a sentimental, nostalgic time and theprovides that connection to the homeland, even after a lifetime living away from here.
Pages upon pages of each edition are devoted to photos of Corkonians proudly posing with the publication for a photo to send home. From Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe, there doesn’t seem to be a country in the world which hasn’t been graced by its presence — it’s even been spotted in the wilds of Dublin!
"We have had photos sent in from every continent — including the Arctic and Antarctic — on top of mountains, at weddings and christenings, on beaches, beside global landmarks. One guy even took a photo of him with theunderwater while he was diving. I suppose the publication is like an extra member of the family at Christmas."
- To buy a copy, visit hollybough.ie
No Christmas dinner in the Rebel county is complete without a serving of spiced beef. The delicacy can be hard to find in other parts of Ireland, never mind in the US or Australia. Eoin O’Mahony of O’Mahony’s Butchers in the English Market has kindly shared some secrets with us on how to spice your own beef so the scent of Christmas in Cork can perfume your home away from home — just remember to start making it at least one week before December 25.
“You can recreate the flavour aroma of Cork Spiced Beef abroad by using a blend of spices and brown sugar,” Eoin says.
“Spiced beef is traditionally made with cured brisket or topside of beef and the predominant flavour comes from ground pimento, also known as allspice. Brisket has fallen out of favour in recent years and topside has become the norm. If you are feeling very adventurous, you can make spiced ox tongue which is still very popular at our stall in the English Market.
“You will need a piece of corned beef to begin with. A 1kg joint will comfortably feed six people for one sitting. Corned beef is often called 'salt beef' abroad. Try to get this from a butcher if at all possible. Do not make with uncured beef as the end result will lack colour and flavour.
“Many butchers in Cork have their own recipes, mine uses another four spices but these are not strictly necessary when making at home,” Eoin adds.
- 200g ground pimento
- 200g good quality brown sugar
- 10g each of cayenne pepper, white pepper and black pepper
- 5 whole almonds (these can be omitted)
Mix the dry spices and sugar.
Add 500ml boiling water and mix well.
Allow to go completely cold and add the corned beef joint. Marinade the beef in the mixture for at least a week to allow the flavours to develop. It can be kept in the fridge or somewhere cool. Make sure to have a lid on the container to avoid the spices flavouring everything in your fridge!
Turn the beef once or twice during the time it is marinating.
To cook, place the beef in a pot of cold water. Bring to the boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 45 minutes per kilo plus 20 minutes.
Allow the meat to cool in the water
There’s something special about stopping off in O’Conaill’s, ordering one of their hot chocolates for takeaway and sipping your way through the streets of the city to take in the Christmas lights and sights. You might not be able to walk around the city centre, but you can make a hot chocolate to the high standards of O’Conaill’s in your own kitchen. Casey O’Conaill says they don’t have a secret recipe — the trick is in the quality of the ingredients.
“There really isn't anything difficult, proprietary or secret about our hot chocolate. Our hot chocolates rely entirely on the use of a sufficient (some would say excessive!) amount of top quality ingredients combined with a bit of care and consistency in their making,” Casey says.
After making iconic hot chocolates for decades, Casey says only good-quality chocolate and milk are needed to make the finest cup.
- Use a small saucepan over a medium heat. Place approximately 200ml of fresh milk in the saucepan and begin to heat.
- When the milk is beginning to become warm, add in 50g of couverture chocolate either in chocolate chips, flakes (our preferred method) or small pieces broken off a bar. Use a whisk to gently stir the chocolate into the heating milk.
- Allow the mixture to reach serving temperature, which should be about 60°C, remove from the heat and allow to stand for a minute.
- Then resume stirring, reheat the mixture to drinking temperature and pour into a cup. It's very important to not overheat the milk. If the milk boils, the taste and texture of the drink will be irreparably damaged. Similarly, gentle whisking is better than vigorous whisking — the aim is to agitate the chocolate as little as possible whilst allowing it to completely melt into the milk.
- Finally enjoy and reminisce about the Christmas lights!
We recommend popping your creation into a travel cup, walking the decorated streets near your own home, and maybe FaceTime a loved one so you can see compare your festive atmospheres.
For Corkonians lucky enough to be Leeside this December, Casey confirms the Princes Street shop and cafe will be reopening in time for those Christmas strolls through town.
“Although our main shop and cafe on French Church St is, sadly, permanently closed down, we are happy to say that our redesigned and renovated outlet on Princes Street will be reopening in early December.”
Long before Brown Thomas was Brown Thomas, the windows at 18-21 St Patrick Street at Christmastime were iconic. Generations came together to visit Cash’s and marvel at the delights within the windows. The custom has continued with the new name above the door and younger generations have delighted in the cheer and sparkle to be found behind those iconic panes of glass.
This year, the magic within those windows continues to delight passers-by with a story on the golden days of train travel, but they’re also available online to be seen from anywhere in the world. Brown Thomas has shared a video of the windows’ reveal which can be viewed online.
“Christmas is our favourite time of year at Brown Thomas where we dedicate the windows to pageantry, wonder and make-believe,” says John Redmond, creative director with Brown Thomas and Arnotts.
“Despite the temporary closure of our stores, we’re delighted to continue the tradition of unveiling our iconic windows. It’s so important, now more than ever, to still celebrate and bring the magic of Christmas in these times of uncertainty.”
Watch it with your fancy hot chocolate in hand, you’ll swear you’re on Pana.
With theatres sadly staying shut to the public over the festive season, pantos across the country have had to be cancelled, meaning a huge loss for venues, artists, crew and more, as well as the boost to restaurants and shops from patrons visiting the city. For those at home in the city, GLOW, A Cork Christmas Celebration kicks off in the city next week, and it will see a reimagined festival that honours Cork’s rich panto tradition. Creative festive window installations will be scattered throughout the city centre and will highlight some of the most popular panto titles, with plenty of Cork highlights and nuances to make each and every attendee feel as much a part of the magic as if they were in a real, interactive theatre.
Missing the real thing? While you can’t shout ‘HE’S BEHIND YOU’ in the Cork Opera House this year, you can arrange a remote family get-together to enjoy Cork Opera House’s panto legend Nannie Nelly on your telly or take in the Opera House’s annual Christmas concert instead. Running from December 22 - 31, Nanny Nellie’s brand new online show will bring festive cheer to families and panto lovers of all ages this Christmas, while the annual Christmas Concert will also be streamed online this year.
Cork Opera House CEO, Eibhlín Gleeson, says she is glad Cork families can gather online to continue their Christmas theatre traditions together.
“We really wanted to put together some festive events online this Christmas for those missing the festive experience. The full Cork Opera House orchestra will be performing at the concert and the stage will be covered in Christmas decorations, it will be amazing. We hope many families will come together on Zoom to enjoy our annual Christmas concert or our online panto show.”
Itching to put a few euro into a charity bucket held by a school student at Christmas? Boys and girls in bright jackets can be seen annually on Cork’s streets collecting donations to help elderly people live independently. If you’re far from the Rebel County this Christmas, check out sharecork.org to discover alternative ways to support the charity. You won’t get a yellow sticker, but you’ll still change someone’s life for the better.
Is it really Christmas without a fizzy glass of Tanora to wash down your spiced beef? Unfortunately, Tanora is rarely found elsewhere in Ireland, never mind around the world. The next best option (other than juicing some tangerines and using a Soda Stream) comes from a neighbouring county. Blackwater Distillery in Co Waterford made headlines and caught many a Corkonian’s attention with the creation of their Tanora Gin. The team at Blackwater confirmed to us they have some Tanora Gin in stock and are shipping to most of the EU.
For those lucky enough to get their hands on a bottle, Blackwater Distillery has shared this festive cocktail for any Irish Examiner readers who wish to celebrate Corkmas with a tangerine tipple.
- One part Blackwater Tanora gin
- One part sweet vermouth
- One part Campari
Stir or throw all the above together then simply pour over a glass of ice. Garnish with orange.
It’s a recipe too good to not share. Arrange a Zoom call with a friend for a festive cocktail night and a much-needed Christmas catch-up. After all, it’s not a real Cork Christmas without someone special to share it with, no matter the distance