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Louise Keehan, Louise O’Callaghan and James Greene of Lough Graney Youth Club preparing Christmas Dinner in Flagmount on Friday December 14. Pic Arthur Ellis.

Youth Club Cook up a Storm for Christmas

CHRISTMAS comes but once a year but in the lakeside community of Flagmount, young people get to celebrate it twice, as each year they create from scratch their own Christmas dinner, complete with turkey, Brussels sprouts and carols.

The Lough Graney Youth Club members, from the ages of 12 to 20, design the three-course menu and prepare starters, cook a turkey and bake desserts for up to 25 people.

As team leaders, Rebecca Smyth from Killanena, Louise O’Connell from Flagmount and Ella MacNamara from Caher, explain, this is the one time of the year when the whole group comes together.

“We’ve been doing this for six or seven years, since we all went into secondary school,” Louise

said. “It’s nice we all make the food together and we all have different parts we look after. Some

people will be on the apple crumble and some people will be on the turkey and then we all come

together to eat it then,” she said.

Arriving from 7pm, the leaders allocate two or three people to each section of the meal and everyone rows in.

“We will have vol au vents, garlic bread and potato skins to start and then we have turkey and we have all the usual vegetables; we will have the Brussels sprouts, even though no-one will really eat them. For dessert, we have baked Alaska, brownies and apple crumble, except every year no matter who is on it, we manage to burn the brownies,” Louise laughed.

Kathleen McNamara, Rachel McNamara, Fionn O’Mara and Jonathon Doyle of Lough Graney Youth Club preparing Christmas Dinner in Flagmount on Friday December 14. Pic Arthur Ellis.

Rebecca said there is a nice atmosphere for the whole evening and those gathered use their team skills to produce the meal. “It brings all the groups together, the young and the older club members, and you won’t have all the cliques, everyone is together,” Rebecca explained.

Ella added that the reason this is so special is most of the young people in the community will have dispersed after national school and it is only through the youth club that they all get to reconnect.

“Where we are, there are different secondary schools between Gort, Scariff and Tulla and we all go our separate ways after primary school, so it is nice that everyone comes back to the same place,” she said.

The evening would not be complete without all the traditional favourites, including candles, Christmas crackers, decorations, festive jumpers and Christmas music. They even make a point of saying grace before meals.

“It gives you a bigger appreciation for what goes into a Christmas dinner. It is nice to see that the food you made actually came out ok and it’s also nice to see the older ones helping the younger ones. It’s not just the cliques of friends that are making things together, everyone is mixed doing it. I think it’s good because the younger ones look up to us and they wouldn’t have the confidence to come to us but when we come to them, they get a lot out of that,” Rebecca explained.

While the youth club Christmas dinner is about bringing the young people together, the club also has a strong connection with the older members of its community and every year their Christmas calender involves bringing joy and festive cheer to everyone in the parish.

“Bessie is the oldest person in our parish and she is now living in St Joseph’s in Ennis but we go in every year to visit her on her birthday, which is the day after St Stephen’s Day,” Louise said.

This year Bessie will be 97 and the leaders say when they go in to visit her, Bessie’s whole face

lights up. At least 12 members of the club will go to visit her and they will sing Christmas carols and Bessie’s favourite song, Amazing Grace.

In addition to visiting Bessie, the club also drops into Raheen Community Hospital to visit the residents there and sing Christmas carols. “It is really feel-good; you come out with a smile,” Louise added.

“Another thing we do every Christmas is we make wreaths for the older people in the parish. Last year, we delivered to one member in the parish who lives by himself and he said it was the only Christmas present he got that year.

Oscar Brennan and Rebecca Smyth of Lough Graney Youth Club preparing Christmas Dinner in Flagmount on December 14. Pic Arthur Ellis.

“It was really nice. He was delighted and he didn’t expect it at Carol Byrne spoke to the team leaders of Lough Graney Youth Club, who hosted their dinner recently all and said it was great someone

was thinking of me,” she said.

The wreaths are all created by the club and it is another activity that they do together. Everyone is allocated to a particular part of the parish then to deliver them personally.

“We are so involved with the elderly and connecting with the parish. It’s nice because they then

don’t look down on the youth because we are involved with them,” Louise explained.

The leaders acknowledged that they are extremely lucky to have such an active club and brilliant facility to host this event and hope that these traditions will continue for years to come.

About Carol Byrne

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Carol Byrne is a reporter at The Clare Champion newspaper reporting on news in the East Clare area and the arts. She also covers the courts in County Clare and has received six national awards for this coverage from the Law Society of Ireland. A Masters in Journalism graduate of NUI Galway, she also holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Limerick in Music and Media Studies. She began her career interning at The Limerick Leader and Clare FM, before taking up a full time post at The Clare Champion in 2006.

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