How to Be Irish in Philly this Week
I’m about to get all Scrooge on you. This is the kind of week I hate. There are so many fabulous events and many of them are scheduled at the same time so you’re going to have to make some tough choices. Let’s coordinate, people!
Not a tough choice: Saturday, the third annual Peter J. Hanlon Memorial Jingle Bell Run in Philadelphia—it’s an Ancient Order of Hibernians fundraiser. As a rule, I don’t find road races all that exciting. And if you stand too close as the runners pass, you can sometimes get drenched in sweat yourself—and it’s not your own. But in this race, many of the competitors dress up as their favorite Christmas character, which means that occasionally someone dressed like Rudolph really wins by a nose.
But Sunday is a different story. Here’s what’s up:
Noon to 8 PM: The Mid-Winter Irish Festival thrown annually by Finnigan’s Wake in Philly, featuring Paddy’s Well, the Broken Shillelaghs (they’re getting so much work, you’d think they’d have themselves fixed) the Bare Knuckle Boxers (they play rather than fight), Irish dancers, food, and vendors, all for only $10 admission. Though technically this is the Late Autumn Irish Festival (winter doesn’t even start for a couple of weeks), we quibble. It’s important to remember that your attendance will indirectly support the Philly St. Patrick’s Day Parade, for which Finnigans and owner Mike Driscoll are major sponsors.
2 PM. The Philadelphia Rose of Tralee Santa’s Workshop and Christmas Celebration takes place at the lovely Willows Mansion in Villanova. This kid-centric event features music, refreshments, arts and crafts, face painting and a visit from the bearded guy himself (no, not ZZ Top, you fool!). Bring nonperishable food items to share with the needy. And, like Finnigan’s Wake, the organizers of the Philadelphia Rose of Tralee Pageant (Sarah Conaghan and Karen Conaghan Race) are tireless supporters of various causes in the Irish community, so while this event is fun, it’s a fundraiser too and counts as a good deed for those of you counting.
2 PM. See? Over in Cherry Hill, the wonderful and melodious Andy Cooney will be bringing his “Classic Irish Christmas” to the stage at St. Mary’s Parish Hall. Fundraiser? You bet. And Cooney is a treat.
4 PM. “Once Upon a Winter’s Night,” will usher the Celtic Christmas season in with traditional Irish and American Christmas songs and a session at the Irish Center.
Okay now, days pass, you do some Christmas shopping, trim the tree, start baking cookies, fill out the Irish Community Survey, and suddenly it’s Friday and you have some choosin’ to do.
If you’re heading north to Bethlehem (which would be appropriate, as it is the Christmas City and no one does it better), you can enjoy a “Fine Winter’s Night” at the Godfrey Daniels Coffee Shop with husband-and-wife duo Matt and Shannon Heaton. They’re wonderful. If you have to miss them, though, they’re playing in Swarthmore the next night.
If you’re staying closer to home, Teada along with Seamus Begley and the amazing sean nos dancer Brian Cunningham are returning with their “Irish Christmas in America” show which will play for one night (Friday) at The Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia. They brought the show to the Irish Center last year and it still makes me smile.
Remember to shop Irish this year and don’t forget those in need. Share with your favorite charity, or just toss a buck into the Salvation Army bucket. This year, it’s the rare person who doesn’t know someone who is struggling.