Every day is a good day to be Irish at Dan and Merry Maguire’s house — and at Christmas, even Santa Claus joins in the fun.
When Merry Christine Jamison and Daniel Patrick Michael Maguire wed, their marriage sparked Merry’s interest in their Irish heritage. Merry, a Nebraska ranch girl, and Dan, a Rapid City native, have made two trips to Ireland so far and filled their home with mementos from their travels.
“We traveled for fun because of our heritage and to see the Maguire Castle,” Merry said. “I could go every year. It’s a beautiful island. The people are very friendly. … Their stories are just intriguing. They pull you right in. They make you cry.”
Their visits to Ireland have taken the Maguires off the beaten path to such places as a church without walls in a forest. They’ve been to weddings and funerals, to cafes and street markets. Merry fondly recalls long walks through Dublin. The trips inspired the couple to begin collecting Irish memorabilia in honor of their heritage.
Year-round, the couple’s house on Pine Haven Drive in Rapid City showcases their Irish roots. Irish dolls, a Celtic knot and other Irish symbols have places of honor throughout the couple’s home. A handmade Irish teapot adorns Merry’s stove.
A print of the Celtic goddess Maeve evokes a particularly stunning memory. Merry bought the print in a pub, where the original painting covered an entire wall.
As Christmas approaches, Irish Santa Claus figurines join the display. They stand in the couple’s dining room, near an Irish clover dish Merry inherited from her great-grandmother. Santa Claus holds a special place in Merry’s heart.
“I’ve always liked Santa because my birthday’s on Christmas Eve,” said Merry, noting that her mother named her Merry Christine because it was similar to Merry Christmas.
In fact, Merry collects very unique Santas. In addition to the Irish figures, a group of hand-painted ceramic Santas — made by her mother — adorn a curio cabinet in Merry’s kitchen.
Of all the memorabilia that fills the Maguire home, Merry’s favorite Christmas decor hangs among family photos on a gallery wall year-round. It’s an original painting of a snowman — painted on butcher paper by the couple’s son, Jacob, when he was 4. Merry framed the oversized snowman, and the simple, sweet painting is always a conversation starter.
“I love to decorate for Christmas,” Merry said. “We both come from large families, and we entertain a lot. I have three ovens and there are times (during the holidays), I have all three going.”
When the family gathers at the Maguire home about 30 people fill the house for days of food and merriment. The Christmas and birthday menu includes prime rib and Merry’s favorite birthday cake, German chocolate cake. Merry often plans a special activity that the whole family can join in. One year, it was an impromptu production of “The 12 Days of Christmas.” Another year, she set up a photo booth with props.
Whether there’s snow on the ground or not, the Maguire Christmas celebration isn’t complete without a bit of light-hearted blarney — an indoor snowball fight.
Merry collects soft, furry plush snowballs in a basket under one of her Christmas trees, waiting for the right moment for a playful fight that lets everyone — from the youngest child to Merry’s mother — to act like a kid at Christmas.
The tradition began a few years ago when Merry led the children in the family on a snowball attack of unsuspecting adults, who were lingering in the dining room.
“All hell broke loose,” Merry said, laughing. “My mother was climbing under the table and running around throwing snowballs. …There were snowballs everywhere, but not one wine glass was spilled. Not one candlestick was knocked over. Now, we have to do it every year. We love it.”