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Holly Days Music

Na Déithe libh mo chairde,

A recommended source for Scottish Yule lore.

As a musician, I consider music to be humanity’s greatest creative expression. Music lives in our memories, beginning even in the womb, and is associated with formative and defining moments in a person’s life. As a human cultural universal, music forms a deep and lasting element of ethnic identity. Music expresses something of the soul of a people, and especially during the Winter holidays (or Holly Days, as I like to call them), music is inseparable from the spirit of the occasion. Love it or hate it, what would this time of year be without “Christmas music”?


In this blog post, I would like to recommend some music for the Winter Holly Days from Celtic tradition, plus a few relevant books for inspiration. This time of year is a “holytide”, not just one day but a celebration that in contemporary American society ranges from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. In a specifically Celtic context, the Winter holytide flows from Samhain to Nollaig na mBan. The more occasion to celebrate, the merrier!


I curated a Winter Solstice Playlist on Youtube for your viewing and listening pleasure. Enjoy!


And here is a Youtube video of a short chant for the Antlered Mother on the Winter Solstice.


“A Gaelic Christmas” by Irish musician Mary McLaughlin is my favorite “Christmas” album, and her album “Sacred Days Mythic Ways” makes a great accompaniment:


“Beautiful Darkness: Celebrating the Winter Solstice” is the companion album to the book “The Winter Solstice” by John Matthews:

In addition to “The Winter Solstice” by John Matthews, these two books are always on my Winter holiday table:


These three albums by Linn Barnes are lovely listening while holiday decorating, baking, or other festive home activities:


From Alpine Bavarian and Austrian tradition, this is my favorite “Bergweihnacht” album:


And now for something completely different. You’ve likely heard of The Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky, but do you know Duke Ellington’s version?


As you listen through these selections, I highly recommend dancing on a hardwood floor with your socks on, which allows for easy-gliding footwork, but just be careful not to spin outta control and end up spraining an ankle. Like Herself did a few Yules past! That did not make for a very merry, but there was extra hot toddy, to be sure.


May your Holly Days bring you blessings of rejuvenated and joyful spirits!

Beannachtaí,

~ Reverend Erika Rivertree


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