My Holiday Wish For You


On this Christmas Eve, I wanted to share what Citizen Diplomacy means to me.

Growing up in Ireland, my favourite part of the holidays was Christmas Eve, when the youngest person in the house would get to light the Christmas candle and put it in the window to light the way for Mary and Joseph on their way to Bethlehem.

Lighting the candle was my sign that Christmas had begun, and in a country where it gets dark at 3 in the afternoon in December, there was something magical about looking out the window to see candles twinkling in all my neighbours’ houses.

There are many stories about the origin of this tradition. Some say it started during the Penal Laws, when Catholicism was forbidden, as a sign to priests that they were welcome in this home. In later years, after the Famine and mass emigration, we lit candles in remembrance of those who had left and to welcome returning migrants back home. And today, with a prime minister who is the son of an Indian immigrant, we light Christmas candles for all visitors to Ireland, for the emigrants and the immigrants, who have made Ireland what it is today.

Christmas candles are beacons of hope. They are a sign of welcome for anyone, friend or stranger, who might be passing on Christmas Eve. They say there is room at this inn.

And that is what Citizen Diplomacy means to me.

Each year, Citizen Diplomats – like you – welcome thousands of visitors to Philadelphia. You provide them with food, shelter and hospitality. You open your homes and your hearts, and you provide spaces for dialogue and understanding that make the world a better place.

Your generosity of spirit is a beacon of hope and, as an immigrant to the United States, I am personally grateful for your commitment to keeping Philadelphia an open and welcoming city for strangers like me.

Citizen Diplomats are Christmas candles. 

On the cusp of a new decade here is my wish for you:

May peace and plenty be first through your door this New Year.

And may your home always be too small to hold all your friends

– and all our international visitors.

Thank you for all you do for Citizen Diplomacy. Happy Holidays and see you in the New Year!


Recent Articles

FAQs About Home Stay Hosting

September 16, 2022

Apply Now Become a Philadelphia Homestay Host and help your family to experience the diversity of the world firsthand. Homestay hosting offers Philadelphia families, of all shapes and sizes, the opportunity to share American life…

Professional Fellows for Governance and Society, South and Central Asia program

September 1, 2022

The Professional Fellows for Governance and Society, South and Central Asia program brings young professionals from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal to the U.S. to exchange ideas, strategies, and best practices in the legislative…


August 18, 2022

Experienced and well-respected nonprofits will unite to create a dynamic international affairs organization focused on further connecting Philadelphia to the world PHILADELPHIA, PA (August 18, 2022) – Today, World Affairs Council of Philadelphia (“the Council”)…

Siobhán Lyons

Siobhan Lyons to Transition from President and CEO of Citizen Diplomacy International

July 12, 2022

Citizen Diplomacy International announced today that President and CEO Siobhan Lyons, long-time diplomatic leader and international connector in the Philadelphia community, will be transitioning after nearly 7 years with the organization. Lyons successfully guided Citizen…

FAQs About Dinner Hosting – THE WORLD AT YOUR TABLE

July 8, 2022

Throughout the year, volunteers welcome visitors for an evening of dinner and conversation, an event which we call “Culinary Diplomacy”,  “Dinner Hosting”, or “Home Hospitality” if dinner takes place at your home instead of a…

Scroll to Top