As the Christmas season kicks into high shopping and hype gear, Katie McMahon is here to report what Christmas feels like in her native Ireland.
“It’s a little more relaxed,” she says. “People don’t work as hard, and everybody seems to take two weeks off and does some drinking and visiting and there’s a lot of music going on. But I haven’t been home for Christmas and I really like it here because of the white Christmas, which you don’t get in Ireland. And my parents come over here now every Christmas, so that’s really nice and we do the real tree with candles.”
All of that — Ireland, Minnesota, family, tradition — has become part of Katie McMahon’s Celtic Christmas concert, which the former Riverdance star has been staging at O’Shaughnessy Auditorium since she arrived in her adopted hometown of Minneapolis in 2000 (she’s married to Ben Craig of Stockcar Named Desire fame).
Saturday’s show should be another full-on thing of McMahon beauty, with a band, a choir, 10 Irish dancers, and songs sung in English, Gaelic, Latin, French and German. But don’t expect any “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” or “Santa Baby.”
“Growing up in Ireland, Christmas wasn’t like a ‘holiday.’ That’s a foreign concept for me. I like to make it very Christmas-y, and most of the songs are about the Christmas story. So there’s not many songs about toys, or generic songs. I like to keep it to the Christmas message.”
Which is what?
“It’s definitely not having to do with something monetary, or gifts,” says McMahon. “It would almost be more like a combination of a Pagan and Christian thing of the dead of winter, a time when new life is going to begin again. And just sort of love and sharing.
“There’s a song in the show we sing called ‘In the Bleak Midwinter,’ which is really, really cute. It’s about a boy who is poor and has no idea what to give to Jesus. In the end, he just gives his heart. And I think that may be something: Like, with my friends here, we all decided we’re not giving each other gifts this year because everyone’s hurtin’. But we can spend time with each other, and I think in a funny way it might be a nicer Christmas for people. You know, don’t run around and spend money; just hang out with each other.”