After the Christmas holidays, you’d expect a lull in Irish-y activities. Guess again.
Start tonight at 6 by joining First Fridays with Round Tower at Hanrahan’s Irish Pub, 690 Burmont Road in Drexel Hill. It’s a nice long happy hour—it lasts ‘til 9—with a terrific band.
Meanwhile, at Philadelphia’s Irish Center (the Commodore John Barry Arts and Cultural Center), 6815 Emlen Street in Mount Airy, you can join the First Friday traditional Irish music session, starting at 8 p.m. If you play an Irish instrument, by all means drop in. (Learners and beginners welcome—the first hour is the “slow session.”) Even if you don’t know one end of a tin whistle from the other, it’s still a great opportunity to visit and listen in.
Two area Gaelic athletic clubs are sponsoring fund-raisers this week, and of course New Year’s Eve is right around the corner, so you’ll have an opportunity to put on your party hat and celebrate.
Here’s what’s on.
Glenside Gaelic Club hosts its annual Adult Winter Holiday Party Saturday from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m, at Jerzee’s Sports Bar & Pizzeria, 2609 Mount Carmel Avenue in Glenside. Friends of the club are invited to join in the fun, which includes drink specials. Jerzee’s will donate a portion of the night’s profits to the club. There will be a 50/50 and baskets of cheer and beer raffles. All donations cheerfully accepted. Music by Raymond McGroary.
Also that night (at the same time), the John Byrne Band presents the music of Shane MacGowan and the Pogues at The Locks at Sona, 4417 Main Street in Philadelphia’s Manayunk neighborhood. Shane was born Christmas Day in 1957, so consider this his 61st birthday party.
The Philadelphia-Delaware Valley chapter of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (translation: Gathering of Musicians in Ireland) carried on a long tradition Wednesday night, holding its 19th annual Wren Party.
The event commemorates the Irish custom of the Wren Boys—ragtag bands of townsmen in motley attire who went door to door playing tunes, dancing and singing songs, all in hopes of collecting money for a community party or dance.
In the early days, they mounted a dead wren on a stick. December 26 is the feast of early Christian martyr St. Stephen, whose hiding place in a bush was given away by the chattering of a wren. Or so legend has it. Hence, the sacrifice of one of those small birds.
That grisly last part of the tradition faded away—thank goodness—a long time ago.
The local Comhaltas chapter commemorated the feast of St. Stephen with a big party at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Glenside, with lots of traditional Irish music, dance, holiday treats—and a wren hat parade.
We have pictures from the night’s merriment. Check them out.
After the last several weeks of frantic pre-holiday activity, maybe we need a light week to just settle in and relax, hopefully with a few days off from the 9 to 5.
So, here’s what’s on tap for the week ahead.
Saturday from 9 p.m. to midnight, check in to Rock Saginario’s Toy Drive for Local Orphanages at Paddy Rooney’s Pub, 449 West Chester Pike in Havertown. They’re asking that you bring a new unwrapped toy or give a cash donation at the door. Music by Lefty.
For the ninth year in a row, the Hibernian Hunger Project has helped make Christmas dinner a reality for area families in need.
This past Saturday, volunteers gathered at the Shamrock Food Distributors warehouse in Frankford to pack cars, minivans and trucks with heavy cardboard boxes, each one filled to the top with all the fixings for a Christmas dinner—turkey or ham, potatoes, stuffing, vegetables, and more—and spread out across the city and, in many cases, well beyond, to deliver the food to needy families.
Mary Frances Fogg (a/k/a Frassee) tends bar at Paddy Whacks Irish Sports Pub, tucked away in a shopping center at Roosevelt Boulevard and Welsh Road in Northeast Philadelphia. She’s pretty much a fixture there at one of the best-known Irish pubs in the city, and she’s one of the most welcoming bartenders you’ll ever want to meet. She has a loyal clientele, and with her welcoming smile and gift for easy conversation, it’s easy to see why.
Frassee is also a member of the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade Observance Association executive committee and a 2015 Delaware Valley Irish Hall of Fame honoree. It would be hard to think of anyone better known in the Philadelphia Irish community. When she’s not expertly pouring pint glasses of Guinness at Paddy Whacks, she also has a day job: director of Government Relations and Special Projects at the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority.
We recently asked her a few questions about that bartending gig. Here’s what she had to say.
Legend has it that it was the chattering of a wren who gave away St. Stephen’s hiding place in a bush, leading to his murder and martyrdom.
Fast forward several centuries to the Emerald Isle, where the so-called “wren boys” commemorated the feast day of St. Stephen—December 26—singing, playing music and dancing in exchange for applause and money to be collected for a party or dance for their village. They performed in colorful clothing and masks.
In the early days, they actually hunted for a wren, killed it and mounted it atop a stick. Thankfully, these days, the tradition continues, but with no avian casualties—a fake wren will do.
The city desk at Irish Philadelphia world headquarters (my coffee table) is abuzz with activity again this week. Philly Irish know how to celebrate Christmas, and they’re doing it with great aplomb. Or a plum pudding. Whatever.
Remember, he sees you when you’re sleeping. (Which I’ve always found kind of creepy.) So, no sleeping. Get out there and be Irish.
If you have an ugly Christmas sweater, haul it out of mothballs. You have an excellent opportunity to don you now your gay apparel as the Philadelphia Hurling and Camogie Club hosts its Ugly Christmas Sweater Pub Crawl Saturday, December 15, from 7 to 10 p.m., meeting at Tir na nOg, 1600 Arch Street in Center City. Rules and pubs to be announced.