1 final exam
5 work days
2 plane rides
until I marry him.
It’s a sunny, cold Christmas morning on Beenbawn Strand, a rocky little slip of a beach a few miles outside of Dingle, Ireland. On shore, parka-clad townsfolk watch, grinning, as a hundred of their boldest brethren count down at the water’s edge, preparing to plunge together into the winter sea.
When flesh meets frigid surf, the air is filled with screams of shock. These piping yelps, part pain, part delight, continue sporadically until all are snug on shore, sipping mulled wine made steaming over driftwood bonfires in iron kettles.
If Dingle’s Christmas swim is a cherished tradition, it is also one of the town’s best-kept secrets. While Dingle, a tiny hamlet on a tiny peninsula that is the westernmost point in Europe, is known worldwide for its unparalleled beauty and charm, few travelers vacation there in winter, making the season an ideal time to visit.
Dingle in late December is mostly drowsy with tranquility. The damp air is tinged with the slightly acrid, earthy scent of turf burning in unseen hearths. Holiday lights glow from lampposts and the tinkle of carols can be heard over the Atlantic’s low rumble as it dashes itself against the quay.
This stillness is superseded by gaiety on Christmas Eve. Pubs welcome merrymakers late into the evening, their windows misted by cheerful exhalation as pints are raised in endless toasts to friend, family and even foe.
Christmas Day they are shuttered, though the area holds other, more contemplative pleasures for visitors — a hike along the town’s craggy coastline, past fields dotted by placid cows, to an abandoned lighthouse. Or a drive out to Kilmalkedar, a 12th-century church built in a mix of Irish and Romanesque styles and still steeped in a nearly palpable air of magic and mystery.
But of all the Yuletide delights Dingle offers, none is more singular then Wren’s Day. Held on Dec. 26, it has evolved from the time when paganism held sway in Ireland and the wren was hunted down, tied to a pole and marched through the village. Today, revelers parade from pub to pub dressed in uniforms of straw, or in vivid animal masks comical or disturbing, some with faces painted, some in Santa suits. Bursting through the door, the ceilidh band that marches with them providing rhythmic accompaniment, they join the similarly attired patrons.
There is drinking and laughter until they vanish into the night, off to the next pub. In all the world, Dingle is the only place where this ancient celebration still occurs.
Undiluted by summer’s tourists, Dingle’s true character emerges in late December: wild and windswept, a place where people still speak Gaelic, where they fish and tend sheep and play traditional music in pubs kept warm against the chill nights.
The lauded Irish hospitality shines brightest, too, in this season, as residents warmly invite outsiders to partake in their most cherished Christmas customs. The simple joy that results makes Dingle an unforgettable, unequaled holiday destination.
Last night, driving home from the gym, I began going through the to-do list I needed to complete before I could go to sleep. I groaned to myself as I thought about the dishes,the shower, the food prepping, etc.
Then all of a sudden it hit me. These “chores” are it. This is my one life and there is no reason I can’t find pleasure in everything that I do. So when i got home I really enjoyed my shower, sprinkled some lemon grass essential oils, did some dry brushing, took off my nail polish which had been chipped to oblivion for a few days. I took my time and really let the gratitude I have for my situation wash over me. I am so lucky to have my home, my shower, hot water.
Then I slowly and affectionately prepped for the morning. I inhaled the rich scent of my Christmas blend coffee as I ground it for this morning’s pot. I carefully washed and patted dry the fruits and veggies I’ll use for juicing this week. I breathed it all in and thought, this is my life. And it is a good one.