Slán, a 2020

Never in my life has this traditional Irish toast been more poignant

The year 2020 has been a rough one for all of us. Some of us have lost loved ones (more than 300,000 in the U.S. alone have died from COVID-19 as of this writing). Some have lost their own health. Many have lost their livelihoods or their homes. Most of us have had to cancel cherished and long-anticipated plans. We’ve all had to adapt to a “new normal,” and many of us have learned that people we once thought of as good and decent have little to no care for others, caring only for their own “FREEEEEE-DUMB.”

Here in my own little part of the world, we’ve dealt with devastating wildfires that drove many of us from our homes and left a good many with no home to return to — and some with loved ones who will never return home at all. We’re mourning the near destruction of an ancient and beloved forest, and we’re still watching the skies nervously for the rain that can cause deadly earth movement in the wake of a wildfire.

Oh yes…let’s not forget “murder hornets.”

No, this is one year I won’t be at all sorry to say goodbye to. To paraphrase a meme currently circulating in Irish language circles, in Ireland it’s traditional to open a door or window on New Year’s Eve to let the old year out — for 2020, we should open all the doors and windows in the hope of getting rid of every last bit of it! I know that I plan to stay up until midnight, by hook or by crook, just so I can throw open the door and scream “good riddance!” when the clock strikes twelve!

Fáilte go 2021

While there’s never a guarantee, I’m holding fast to the hope that the turn of the year heralds better times to come. We now have extremely promising vaccines for COVID-19 and, while the distribution has been slower than promised, still, it IS happening. In the U.S. we’ve elected a new administration that promises to approach the pandemic, as well as the many other ills that threaten both our country and our planet, with the seriousness that they merit. It may not be perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Go mbeirimid beo ag an am seo arís

That said, never in my life has this traditional Irish toast been more poignant: “May we be alive at this time again.” Looking back at 2020, this seems less like a toast and more like a prayer.

Here, then, are my hopes and prayers for 2021:

  • May the day come soon when we can all once again walk, work, worship, mingle, embrace, and sing together freely, without fear.
  • May ALL our world leaders finally begin to take seriously the evils that plague our species and our planet, from climate change and racism to poverty and war, as well as the toxic “individualism” that fuels most, if not all, of these ills. Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine.
  • And yes — may we all live to see another, brighter, New Year’s Eve.

PS: If you are the creator of the image above, or if you know who the creator is, please contact me so I can give you/them proper credit.

Beannachtaí na Bliana Úir Oraibh go Léir!

In addition to being “The Geeky Gaeilgeoir,” Audrey Nickel is the author of  The Irish Gaelic Tattoo Handbook,” published by Bradan Press, Nova Scotia, Canada.  For information about the book, including where to buy it, please visit


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4 thoughts on “Slán, a 2020”

  1. Just found your blog & I’m very excited to explore as I just started learning Irish in 2020 (hello things to do during a pandemic!). Also I have a few tattoos, none in Irish thus far but I’ll grab a copy of your book to save myself headaches & regret in the future!
    Slán go fóill!
    P.S. 2020 WAS the absolute shits & I was def glad to see the back it!


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