Members of the Rim Country Celts want to educate potential members and other area residents about Celtic heritage and culture. But they also want to keep that education fun.
A prime example of that mission was the Burns Night event the group hosted Wednesday, Jan. 15 at Dimi Espresso. The talk and slide show focused on the life and work of Robert Burns, one of Scotland’s literary giants, but also entertainment from songs he wrote and his poetry.
“He wrote a lot of songs and a lot of funny songs and that’s what we did,” said Anne James, half of the Cinnamon Twist duo (the other half is Jennifer Baltz) and a member of both the Rim Country Celts and Daughters of Scotia.
She said between 30 and 35 people attended the program.
Another bit of education: not all Celts originated in Great Britain. Most Celtic heritage is tied to Scotland, Ireland and Wales. However, there are actually eight Celtic nations, according to James and John Munro. In addition to Scotland, Ireland and Wales, Celts also come from Cornwall and the Isle of Man in the British Isles, Brittany in France, the far northeast of Spain (Galicia and Asturias) and from throughout Germany.
In fact, some of the oldest Celtic archaeological sites are in Germany, dating back 200 or 400 B.C., according to Munro. He added The Roman Empire drove the Celts out of Europe to the British Isles and the isolated enclaves of Brittany and northeast Spain.
Munro helped Nancy and Lloyd Gibson organize the original Rim Country Celts group back in 2011.
“We knew each other from attending festivals and Celtic games around the country and started talking about organizing a Celtic clan group here,” Munro said. They discovered there were not enough clans in the area, so decided to go the Celtic group route.
The first effort to draw interest was a Tartan Day in April 2011 at the old East West Exchange. Tartan Day is an “unofficial” national holiday for all Scottish-Americans held April 6. However in 1998, National Tartan Day was officially recognized on a permanent basis when the U.S. Senate and then the U.S. House of Representatives both recognized April 6 as National Tartan Day.
This eventually led to a wildly successful Ceilidh gathering, with lots of Gaelic folk music and dancing in October 2011. James said about 300 people turned out at the Lone Pine Hotel on Historic Main Street for the event.
“We’re trying to get away from real big programs (like the October 2011 Ceilidh) and do smaller, more educational programs (to help people learn about Celtic heritage and culture),” James said.
In addition to the recent Burns Night, the group has presented programs on Celtic Christmas traditions through a Hogmanay celebration in December and an educational event about the Irish that fought in the U.S. Civil War.
The Rim Country Celts present these free programs regularly the first and third Wednesday of each month at Dimi Espresso, 612 N. Beeline Hwy., Payson (in the Swiss Village next to Circle K North).
The group will launch rimcountrycelts.com, with details about the organization, meeting and program updates, plus articles on Celtic history.
The programs planned for the next few months include: Ceilidh dancing by Valerie Casteneda on Feb. 5; ghost stories by Alice Natale, Feb. 19; the history of St. Patrick’s Day and its celebrations, March 5; Irish traditional stories, March 19; tartans and clans, April 2; a Kirking (blessing) of the Tartans at the Community Presbyterian Church, 800 W. Main, Payson, Sunday, April 6; and an all-day Ceilidh and Gathering of the Clans with bands, dancing and a party Saturday, April 26 at a location to be announced.
Beginning in March, the Rim Country Celts also have representatives attending the Celtic festivals and games throughout the Southwest, James said.
Membership in the group is only $10 per person per year, but it is not required to attend any of the events.
To learn more, contact James at (928) 951-4420 or at firstname.lastname@example.org; Munro at (928) 468-6220; or Neil Morrison at (928) 478-6228.