The classes, which begin Feb. 25 and will run through May 5, will be held at the Ripley-Grier Studios in Midtown Manhattan, at 520 8th Avenue (between 36th and 37th Streets).
You may be aware that Halloween is derived from the Gaelic (and more broadly, Celtic) festival of Oidhche Shamhna and Samhain. The festival, with its pre-Christian roots, commemorated the last phase of the harvest season, ancestors, and the end of the old (agricultural) year. But how much do you really know about the Samhain customs and beliefs of the Scottish Highlanders?
To dig past the commercial trappings of the modern holiday (and modern misconceptions) and get at its roots, plan to attend a free public lecture at the University of North Carolina Oct. 26 called “A’ Cnagadh Cnù na Samha: Cracking the Halloween Nut: Sensing and Making Sense of a Scottish Highland Calendar Custom.” The lecture will be delivered by Dr. Tiber Falzett, the inaugural visiting lecturer in Scottish Gaelic Studies at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Dr. Falzett will explore the unique and universal aspects of Halloween folkways among Scottish Highlanders in North America and in Scotland, using field recordings of custom and belief within Gaelic-speaking communities, newspaper editorials, and song compositions. Together, these Gaelic voices will bring to life the cultural significance of Halloween for Highland immigrant communities, providing valuable insights into the reasons for Halloween’s near-universal appeal.
Learning more about the Gaelic customs of Oidhche Shamhna will help attendees compare Halloween’s many divergent re-interpretations as it has become popularized around the world. It will also help Gaelic learners and speakers reconnect with the holiday as Scottish Highlanders and their descendants in North America celebrated it yesterday and today.
The lecture is scheduled for 6:30 pm to 8 pm in UNC’s Kenan Music Building, room 1201, at 125 S. Columbia Street in Chapel Hill. There will be a celebratory reception afterward.
The lecture also celebrates the the first Scottish Heritage USA Scottish Gaelic Visiting Lectureship at UNC, a major step in advancing Scottish Gaelic Studies in the United States. The lectureship is funded by Scottish Heritage USA and is the result of a two-year campaign by the Scottish Gaelic Foundation of the USA or Gaelic USA.
Before coming to UNC this fall, Falzett, a fluent Scottish Gaelic speaker, lectured in the Department of History at the University of Prince Edward Island. He previously lectured at St. Francis Xavier University, in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, where he taught courses on the folklore and ethnology of the Gaelic communities of Scotland, Ireland and Canada.
For more information, visit the lecture’s event page on Facebook.
Everyone, practically everywhere, has heard of Robert Burns and Burns’ Night, but what about Scotland’s Gaelic poets?
They got their due and their own night Jan. 27, when 20 people gathered to celebrate centuries of poets and Gaelic poetry and share poems and songs at Oidhche nam Bàrd in Alexandria, Virginia.
Gàidhlig Photomac, the Scottish Gaelic Learning Community in the Washington, D.C., area, organized the special event, held just a few nights after Robert Burns’ big evening Jan. 25. The venue was the snug Fitzgerald room at Daniel O’Connell’s Irish restaurant.
“We felt it was time the contribution of Scottish Gaelic poets to Scotland and, in fact, the world at large, was recognized,” Liam Cassidy, a co-organizer of Gàidhlig Photomac, said.
The evening combined poetry and song with a brief Gaelic class, dinner and drinks, music and a toast to the bards (all of them).
“Many people are drawn to Gaelic by its songs, and the link between poetry and song in Gaelic is strong,” Cassidy said. “We’ve wanted to do something to celebrate and introduce Gaelic poetry to learners for a long time, and this seemed a good way to go about it.”
The evening’s program featured five Gaelic poets from different eras: Lachlann Mòr MacMhuirich from the medieval period, Mòr Chaimbeul from the 1570s, Donnchadh Bàn Mac an t-Saoir from the 18th century, Màiri Mhòr nan Òran from the 19th century, and finally, the great 20th century Gaelic poet Somhairle MacGilleathain.
The poems were read in Gaelic and in English translation and copies and information on the poets were shared with attendees.
After the “formal” reading, the informal sharing of poems and songs began. Out of the 20 attendees, nine volunteered to read or sing favorite pieces they brought with them. “We were pleased with the turnout, but amazed by the number of people who wanted to share poems,” Cassidy said.
Oidhche nam Bàrd drew long-time members of the D.C.-area Gaelic community but also new people, including a family with ties to Lochaber, an Irish-language student, and a few people experiencing Gaelic for the first time. The event was the first this year for Gàidhlig Photomac, which publicized the night through Meetup and Facebook.
While most of the attendees were locals living in Northern Virginia, D.C., or Maryland, three came from New York City and one from Richmond, Virginia. The New Yorkers all enjoyed local hospitality.
There was no charge for the event itself. Attendees covered their own tabs. “The fact that the restaurant did not charge for the room meant a lot to us,” Cassidy said. “That helped us make this a free event.”
Gàidhlig Photomac plans to make Oidhche nam Bàrd an annual event, and hopes other Gaelic Learning Communities will host their own events celebrating Gaelic poets and poetry. “The model would be an easy one to follow, even for small groups,” Cassidy said.