Cathie Ryan will perform her Irish American Christmas show, The Winter’s Heart, at Peoples Bank Theatre in Marietta on Friday. (Joe Sinnott)

Cathie Ryan Brings Irish American Christmas To Peoples Bank Theatre

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On Friday, critically lauded singer-songwriter Cathie Ryan will bring her luminous vocals and band of virtuoso musicians to the Peoples Bank Theatre in Marietta for The Winter’s Heart, Ryan’s musical celebration of an Irish-American Christmas.

“There are so many things about Christmas to love; people are kinder, more open-hearted. It’s also the only holiday where we all share a songbook of songs that we all love and know,” said Ryan. “I called the show ‘The Winter’s Heart’ because I feel that in this cold and barren time, it’s quite beautiful that we open our hearts to each other in a way that we don’t during the rest of the year.”

This is Ryan’s first holiday tour. Typically her yearly performance schedule starts in early spring and heats up with summer music festivals.

“I’ve seen some divisions in our country in these last few years, and I felt that if I could do anything to help that, it would be performing at this time of year,” she said. “I believe that songs have a certain healing power, especially Christmas songs; so it felt important, as a singer-songwriter, to be on the road now.”

During The Winter’s Heart performances, Ryan and her band explore Irish American holiday traditions through song.

“The candle in the window is a big tradition in Ireland,” said Ryan, referencing the custom of leaving a flickering candle in the window on Christmas Eve to symbolically invite in Mary and Joseph as they look for shelter. “The Irish people have endured generations of mass emigration since the Great Hunger in the mid-1800’s. So there are people away from home that you want to come home, and that light is to let them know that they are very welcome. It’s also for the stranger. At Christmastime we don’t all have family or people who love us or a home where we are welcome; so the candle is there also to let the stranger, the poor, and the lonely know that know they are welcome at the hearth.”

Ryan said letting people into your home is a large part of the Irish celebration of Christmas – a celebration that Ryan explained takes place over the course of two weeks, instead of a few days.

“In Ireland, Christmastime isn’t so much about gift-giving as it is about visiting. So during those two weeks, you never lock your door, you are always welcoming people into your home,” said Ryan. “It’s all about being with people – and you always have lots of goodies around in case people come to your door – because they will!”

The songs that Ryan and her band have arranged for their Winter’s Heart performances delve into other traditions – such as the hunting for the wren on Dec. 26, St. Stephen’s Day; and women’s Christmas on Jan. 6, which is also the date of Epiphany. Ryan also tells stories about Christmastime from her upbringing in a first generation Irish immigrant home.

“Overall, this is a really spiritual show. Not in a denominational way – but a show about spirit songs and stories,” said Ryan. “I think that it’s not just our hearts that open up during Christmastime, but our spirits, too.”

The Winter’s Heart opens up at 8 p.m. on Dec. 16 at the Peoples Bank Theatre, 222 Putnam St. in Marietta. Tickets are $20-$30. For more information visit

(Kerry Dexter)
(Kerry Dexter)