Leabharlann Na Meán

Gearrthóga Fuaime

Speech at the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

Áras an Uachtaráin, 9 December 2017

A Dhaoine Uaisle,
A Chairde Gael,
Agus a Pháistí ach go háirithe,

Tá fáilte romhaibh go léir chuig Áras an Uachtaráin tráthnóna. Tá súil agam go bhfuil sibh ag baint taitnimh as an lá.

You are all very welcome here this afternoon. This is always a very special day in Áras an Úachtaráin. It is the day when we officially mark the beginning of the Christmas season by lighting up the big Christmas tree outside. All of you have been invited here today to represent, and share this special occasion on behalf of, all the people of Ireland.

Christmas is a time when we recall the birth of a child in Bethlehem to parents who were homeless and who had to flee from their homeland.

It is a time of year that we associate with joy and expectation and wonder.  It brings with it a warm glow that lights up the darkness of mid-winter and makes our thoughts turn to family and friendship and Christmases past. Christmas is also a time when we begin to say goodbye to one year, and to look forward with hope to a new year to come.

Of course, nobody looks forward to Christmas more than our children. That is one of the reasons why today is such an important one in the Áras. It is a day when we get the opportunity to see the Áras filled with children and their families, all of you looking forward I have no doubt to the arrival of Santa Claus and to your Christmas holidays from school and to all of the magic that comes your way at this time of the year.

For the adults here today Christmas is probably as much a time of nostalgia and fond memories, as it is of anticipation and looking forward. It is a time when we remember loved ones no longer with us but who are still not forgotten and are an intangible part of all our Christmases; a time when the absence of loved ones, or being a long way from home, can be particularly hard to bear; a time when our cherished memories of Christmases past inspire us to embrace even more fully the joy of spending time with our families, friends and loved ones.

And so this evening, as we light the Christmas tree in Áras an Uachtaráin, we will remember all of the people for whom it is being lit – we will remember our emigrants who will be with us in spirit even if they cannot make it home for Christmas this year; we will remember those who have lost someone, the bereaved for whom this Christmas will be a particularly sad and difficult time; we will remember the lonely, the ill, and the homeless; we will remember those who have come to Ireland in recent times to make a new home here and who will be bringing their own special memories to their Christmas celebrations; we remember the Irish Defence Forces who will be absent from home this Christmas performing peace-keeping duties in troubled parts of our world; and we remember all the people who will be working during the Christmas season including the Gardaí and all the emergency services and the medical staff in hospitals across the country. And, of course, we remember our own families and friends and neighbours who are such an important part of our own Christmas celebrations.

Finally, I would like to thank you all for coming here this afternoon and helping Sabina and me to carry on the great Áras tree lighting tradition. I would also like to thank the Áras staff who have worked so hard to decorate the house and to provide the fare you have been enjoying. Thank you also to our first-aiders and, of course, our talented entertainers the Clarecastle/Ballyea Youth Choir, Leah Barniville, the Fanzini Brothers, Jack Wise, and Brian Halpin. My thanks also to Mr. Claus who has come all the way on his sleigh to visit us in the Áras this evening, and to our MC today Niall de Burca.

I hope you have all had a wonderful time, and that this afternoon will become a special family memory to share in years to come. I wish each and every one of you a very happy Christmas and a peaceful, prosperous and joyful new year.

Nollaig faoi shéan agus faoi mhaise oraibh go léir.

Go raibh míle maith agaibh.