“The website is all about giving people who will be remaining in New York or Chicago or wherever in the world a place to go online, a wonderful portal which will provide a flavor of Ireland at Christmas.”

This Christmas will be one for the record books, and not in a good way.  Some 700,000 returning emigrants and visitors travel into and out of Ireland annually during the holidays to reunite and celebrate, but CIVU-19 has pretty much put paid to that for 2020.

Those longing for Ireland at this special time of year, however, will have the opportunity to virtually enjoy an Irish Christmas thanks to a new Irish government initiative, www.tobeirish.ie, championed by the Diaspora Minister Colm Brophy and designed to showcase all that’s wonderful about an Emerald Isle holiday.  The site aims to be filled with submissions from the global Irish diaspora, and all are invited to share their favorite holiday stories and traditions.

“I had been thinking about this months ago, how Christmas would be so different this year, and I wanted our department to do something that would give people who can’t come home an Irish experience,” Brophy told the Irish Voice this week.

“The website is all about giving people who will be remaining in New York or Chicago or wherever in the world a place to go online, a wonderful portal which will provide a flavor of Ireland at Christmas.”

✨☘️ Calling all #GlobalIrish! Today Minister @brophytalks is launching @ToBeIrish, a new initiative that will celebrate everything special about being Irish at Christmas time. 🎄 🎁

Check out https://t.co/aqnSi8ma0Y and get involved!#ToBeIrish #IrishAtChristmas pic.twitter.com/9KybvfmKS7

— Global Irish ☘ (@GlobalIrish) November 30, 2020

The submission guidelines are broad – the third-generation Irish American living in Boston is just as welcome to participate as the recent Irish immigrant spending the holiday in New York.

“We want everyone to share something.  We’ve had some videos from people giving recipes for Christmas pudding, or telling how their grannies would make the turkey, or remembering what treats they used to leave out for Santa to make sure he would stop at their houses.  And what Christmas TV shows they like,” Brophy said. 

Tobeirish.ie is currently accepting one-minute video submissions from anyone who wishes to provide a story, a recollection, a Christmas jig, a favorite carol – anything that will help bring Ireland that bit closer during a time when everyone is craving familiar comforts.  The content will be varied in other ways too, Brophy says. 

“We hope to have some very good music and some interviews with well known Irish people living in the U.S. and different parts of the world sharing their memories.  We will have a lot of material from around Ireland which many members of our local government authorities have put together for us to show what’s happening in Ireland in 2020,” the minister added.

“We’ll have scenes from the lights in cities and towns, messages from people in the Irish Defence Forces who are overseas, and many other attractions which we will be announcing in full on December 8.”

TikTok and Instagram submissions are welcome; so too are simple videos from camera phones.  The instructions for submission are detailed on the site.

The minister is fully aware that a virtual Irish Christmas is nothing like the real thing, but these days it’s all about making the best of a bad situation, and tobeirish.ie aims to do just that.  Its intent is also to be one and done, as vaccines will make in-person celebrations once again possible for next year.

“I have no doubt that in generations to come, there will be people telling stories about how they celebrated this really strange Christmas when families were separated, and what they did to try and make it special.  And this is an opportunity to be part of those future stories,” Brophy says.

“And for this year, we want to reach out to everyone at Christmastime and say that we know it’s not the same as it should be, but here is something that will raise your spirits and give you something to be happy about, and help you look forward to next year.”

Tobeirish.ie will be live from December 21-31.  Visit the site for submission information.