The Magic of an Irish Christmas

As Christmas fast approaches, I had a chat with the wonderful Sarah and Kunak about their latest book, The A to Z of an Irish Christmas.

Why did you decide to write this book?

Sarah: We wrote this book because we both LOVE Christmas and we thought we’d spread some Christmas cheer. We didn’t know at the time that there would be a pandemic, then there was one and I just think that this is a lovely book for people who are stressed or away from home. So, it’s a little bit of an Irish Christmas for them.

Kunak: Sarah and I are both nuts for nostalgia. And the nostalgia doesn’t get much more feel-good than when it’s Christmas nostalgia. And nobody does Christmas better than the Irish. We have taken all the best bits of Christmas, and then added our own little touches to make it unique – like the Barry’s Tea ad, the Late Late Toy Show, the smoked salmon and the spiced beef. We have the Arnotts Santa and the Brown Thomas window, the Christmas Day swim in freezing waters, and the Wren Boys on Stephen’s Day. From the first bars of ‘Fairytale of New York’ in early December right up to Women’s Christmas on the 6th January, we’ve got it all sorted.

What do you love about Christmas?

Sarah: My favourite thing about Christmas is watching Christmas movies! My all time favourite movie is It’s a Wonderful Life and then Home Alone and Elf. It wouldn’t be Christmas if you didn’t watch them. I also love getting a real tree and putting it up. This year, I’m looking forward to having Christmas with my kids.

Kunak: To this day, I can still remember the absolute joy and excitement of waking up on Christmas morning, moving my foot under the duvet and hearing the rustle of the wrapped presents that Santa had left there. That moment, for me, was the pinnacle of all the pre-Christmas build-up, and was also filled with all the potential of the day ahead, full of present-opening and new toys and selection boxes. Does life get better than that? And writing this book with Sarah was about capturing that sheer joy and hoping that we can spread it to others –­­ particularly this year, when we can all do with a lift in our spirits. Continue reading “The Magic of an Irish Christmas”

The Making of The A to Z of Being Irish

The dynamic author duo, Sarah Cassidy and Kunak McGann, answered my quick fire questions this week on the making of the hilarious and unbelievably accurate The A to Z of Being Irish.

What inspired you to write this book?

The idea for the A–Z came from a conversation about what makes us uniquely Irish. We wanted a book to reflect both the Ireland we grew up in and the Ireland of today: everything from the Angelus to Zig and Zag, really! We thought a dictionary style would work really well, and so The A to Z of Being Irish was born. That’s when the real problems began! For some letters we had no trouble coming up with subjects (B, C and T were full to the brim), but there’s no denying that X, V and Z caused us a few sleepless nights!

How did you decide what to include?

There was A LOT of discussion about which entries made the grade. We aimed to cover a range of topics from all areas of Irish life, everything from what we like to eat (anyone for a black pudding sandwich washed down with a glass of red lemonade?), to how we speak and what we wear.

Continue reading “The Making of The A to Z of Being Irish”

Don’t forget ‘the messages’!

This month, we’re celebrating all things Irish with the publication of You Know You’re Irish When … by Séamus Ó’Conaill. Seamus has compiled a hilarious list of iconic Irishisms, from classic Irish quirks to the more recent additions of what it means to be from the Emerald Isle. Here are some of the highlights:

You Know You’re Irish When …

  • You’ve no idea what is the difference between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael
  • Most of your overdraft in your thirties was going to friend’s country weddings
  • Until you were twenty-five, your favourite cheese was EasiSingles
  • Mammy let you watch all the violence and swearing on TV you liked. But God forbid there was any ‘sexy’ stuff going on
  • You vote for your local representative because, didn’t your father vote for his father?
  • You know where you were when Anne Doyle announced she was retiring from RTE News
  • After you turn forty, you find yourself buying the local paper for ‘the deaths’
  • They’re not ‘errands’. They’re ‘the messages’
  • You know what ‘I’m running five minutes late’ really means
  • You were warned as a child you’d get ‘square eyes’ from looking at the telly
  • You ask someone: ‘Are you goin’ out, or are you goin’ *out* out’

Anymore Irishisms you know of? Tweet us at @OBrienPress!

‘Seamus O Conaill has distilled our very nature into the pages’ Irish Daily Mirror

‘He’s compiled a list of things that are unique to us Irish – and he’s nailed it!’ Today FM’s Early Breakfast Show

Nearly 100 Things that Only GAA People Say

This autumn, with the release of Six Nations, Two Stories, The Balls.ie Guide to Life, and Punching Above Their Weight, we’ve a whole host of sports stories to entertain and inspire! To celebrate our athletic turn, this month’s blog post is an extract taken from The Balls.ie Guide to Life. Enjoy the highlights from ‘Nearly 100 Things that Only GAA People Say’:

A select few sayings and phrases have become enshrined in the vernacular of the GAA’s media, players and public. We don’t know how they got there, but we know they’re not going away. Some of them are stock sayings by Cyril Farrell and Ger Canning. Some are things you hear from auld lads in the terrace at a club match. Some you hear from the county manager or captain after a match. Combined, they make up the odd and illuminating vocabulary of the GAA.

Stuff Only GAA Fans Say

‘They’ve another fifteen on the line that are as good’ Regularly said about Kilkenny’s hurlers, and now Dublin’s footballers. Often followed by the words ‘… if not better’.

‘He was a great minor, but then the drink got him’ The most common (and probably correct) explanation for why blazing underage talent burns out before turning twenty-five.

‘Bend your back’ Usually said to a new underage player who has played a lot of soccer but not much GAA and has a tendency to dribble the ball ‘soccer style’.

‘He’s good, but the brother is better’ How often did we hear this about Alan and Bernard Brogan? Or Seamus and Aidan O’Shea?

Stuff Only GAA Players and Managers Say

‘A draw was the right result in the end’ Said after a highly competitive and entertaining game, usually because ‘neither team deserved to lose’.

‘What do you think of that, Joe Brolly?’ Perhaps the most modern GAA cliché.

‘They wrote us off during the week’ A common potshot by triumphant managers at members of the radio and press corps who offered fair-to-middling criticism of their team.

Stuff Only GAA Pundits and Commentators Say

‘Tight Pitch’ According to the rules of the game, all GAA pitches are of a standard size. But GAA fans know that’s not the case. A tight pitch is the toughest place to go: there’s no space to play, and the opposition fans are right on top of you. It’s generally cited as a factor for the underdog having a chance. Two famously tight pitches are St Conleth’s Park in Newbridge and Nowlan Park in Kilkenny.

‘Wide-open spaces’ The opposite of the tight pitch. The underdog fears the wide-open spaces of Croke Park and Semple Stadium that always seem to be opening up.

‘Gone to the well’ When it comes to crunch time in the Championship, you don’t just dig deep, you go to the well. No team has gone to the well more down the years than Brian Cody and Kilkenny, particularly before said All-Ireland final replay.

The GAA Winners Speech

‘A hUachtarán, Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael, taoiseach …’ No great (or even mediocre) speech can begin without dropping a cúpla focal as an act of deference to the assembled dignitaries and GAA bureaucrats.

‘To the sponsors: we couldn’t have done it without you, lads’ There is no greater faux pas than to omit mention of the team sponsor. And while you’re at it, thank the bus company, the restaurant that provides the post-match carvery, the water-bottle supplier, and the lady who makes the tea.

‘Finally, three cheers for the losers. Hip hip!’ The celebrations cannot really begin until the captain has issued some sort of semi-patronising acknowledgement to the losing side.

The Balls.ie Guide to Life will be available from 28 September.