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Dublin: 6 °C Monday 16 December, 2019
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An Irish Christmas abroad: read this Carlow lad's postcard from Canada

That first Christmas away from home.

BACK IN SEPTEMBER on a sunny 22 degree day the Regan family had a very special dinner in Carlow town.

It was a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, served in honour of son Alan, who was preparing to emigrate to Canada.

mushy Stuffing and everything. The real Irish mammy deal.

Twenty-five-year-old Alan is son to Kerry couple Joan and Maurice, and brother to Damien and Colin. On 12 September 2014 he upped and headed to Vancouver for a grand adventure with his pal Rudi Corcoran, another Carlow man.

rudi Alan and Rudi, preparing for take off

This festive period will be Alan’s first away from home, and he’s shared with us this snapshot of his life in Canada in the months since he left; a kind of a postcard home for Christmas…

Sure it’s breakfast time back home

I packed over 700 tea bags between the two flights over here – Lyons, not Barry’s, because I’m not some kind of monster.

tea

We’ve already sipped through several hundred of them, but we should be okay for another month or two before stock levels become critical. I’m assured that Mammy Regan’s emergency press in Carlow is well-stocked and is on standby to send fresh supplies when that happen

The Toy Show

Ciara, Lauren and all our other Irish friends came over to our place for the Toy Show, we cracked open a tin of Quality Street (they’d no Roses) and we watched it on delay that evening on the RTÉ Player.
Needless to say, my Canadian landlord, who lives above our basement apartment, was more than a little curious as to why such a large group of people in their mid-20s would choose to stay in on a Friday night and watch loads of little people playing with children’s toys.

toyshow "Tubs broke a toy.... DRINK!"

But as the programme came to an end, the first snow of the season here began to fall. It seems Vancouver is able to add its own little touch of magic on even the most Irish of traditions.

toyshowsnow The first snow of the season in John Hendry Park on the night of the Toy Show

Sad news from home

In July a small number of cancerous cells were discovered in my aunt, and an operation in mid-August unearthed several tumours. It was then inevitable that she would pass away – maybe in months, maybe in weeks.
I travelled to Cork and Tralee to visit her in hospital and I last saw her in person on the Sunday before my flight. That was on the day Kilkenny and Tipp drew in the hurling final, and my mother and I watched the Hawk-Eye call that decided the game by her bedside.

aunt1 Alan's aunt Marie

But more importantly, I was grateful that day to be able to tell her that I love her, and to savour the hug which I knew would be our last as we said goodbye in person for the final time. Being eight time zones away from my family was tough in these circumstances.
I had seven missed calls overnight from back home when I woke up on 7 October, and I knew immediately what it meant. For me, I felt I needed to travel home for the funeral in Kerry, to be around others who knew Marie to be the kind, utterly selfless woman who had cared so devotedly for her late mother, and to share in the company of those who loved her too.

Christmas in Canada

 I packed light when I returned home in October, so I had plenty of space on my return for selection boxes and some Tayto. After that I had to pick between the USA biscuits or a tin of Roses – controversially for this continent, I packed the Roses. My roommate knows where I’ve put them, and yet we’ve diligently managed to not eat them before Christmas. I consider this to be the biggest achievement of our entire friendship.

def

I imagine I’ll get a little homesick over Christmas – I’ve especially enjoyed that warm feeling of coming home to Carlow over the last few years.A few of us are planning to meet up on Christmas Day for yet another dinner though, and I’m really looking forward to that. I just hope the others like roast potatoes and mushy peas as much as the Regans.

rudialan Alan and Rudi visit Whistler

Read: Irish mammy made Christmas dinner in Carlow today for emigrating son>

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About the author:

Emer McLysaght

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