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GMU imports a traditional Irish Christmas celebration for all ages

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Entertainment,Music,Marie Gullard

The Irish have treasured their unique holiday customs and songs of the season. Some are similar to the American celebration, such as candles in the windows; others are foreign to these shores. The Irish ensemble Danu, direct from County Waterford, pulls it all together in a delightful musical presentation this Saturday at George Mason's Center for the Arts in Fairfax.

Danu's joyful, Celtic holiday celebration is called "Christmas in Ireland: An Nollaig in Eiriin." Custom and music go hand-in-hand, as one of Danu's founders, Benny McCarthy, notes.

"St. Stephen's Day is the day after Christmas, and we have an ancient tradition called 'The Wren Hunt,' which dates back hundreds of years and is a great day of music, song and dance, [and] we will have some fantastic dancers join us for the show," McCarthy said.

There is also a song, "The Laden Table," that pays homage to a Christmas Eve tradition in which families set the table with a loaf of bread containing caraway seeds and raisins, a pitcher of milk and a lit candle. They then leave the door unlatched for wandering travelers.

Onstage
Danu: Christmas in Ireland
» Where: George Mason University Center for the Arts, 4400 University Drive, Fairfax
» When: 8 p.m. Saturday
» Info: $23 to $46; youth through 12th grade half-price with an adult; 888-945-2468; cfa.gmu.edu

Just as the audience revels in these traditions, they will also hear many of the instruments used in Irish music, such as the tin whistle, button accordion, the bouzouki and the deep sounding hand drum called a bodhran. They will be joined by guitar, piano, fiddle and flute.

"We will be doing a great fun song, 'Mrs. Fogarty's Christmas Cake,' and another [one] about the St. Stephen's tradition called 'Boys of Barr Na Sraide,' " McCarthy continued. "There will be plenty of chat about all of these and more at the show. I don't want to give away too much, eh?"

In what could become an ongoing tradition for Danu to make an area appearance at the holidays, McCarthy added, "The band is really excited about coming to the USA again this year [to] present our 'Christmas in Ireland' program. It really gets us into the festive spirit to share some of our favorite tunes and songs. Plenty of music and fun will be had, for sure."

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