If Christmas is a time for nostalgic remembrance, let's look back a little further than this frustrating year of 2020. Let's pivot back 90 years, when the most influential travel writer of the 20th century, HV Morton, produced a book called In Search of Ireland, first published in 1930.
It was hugely successful and was reprinted at least seven times. After the conflicts of the 1920s, when British-Irish relations were, to say the least, grouchy, this Englishman's take on Ireland brought a new and more benign view of the Irish Free State.
Henry Canova Vollam Morton was so enchanted with the country that he wanted to encourage English people to spend their holidays in Ireland "and make friends with its irresistible inhabitants". This would be "a fitting end to centuries of political misunderstanding".
Ireland, he told his millions of readers, was more like a foreign country than a member of the British Dominions: more like Italy or Spain, albeit with rain.
British people, wrote this imperialist Englishman, must forget some of their "prejudiced and often ludicrous" ideas and warm to the charm of the Irish and the beauty of the land.
Morton's mission helped to open up Ireland to British tourists, who sought the enchantment that he spoke about. But here's an intriguing question: how would his observations of Ireland in 1930 measure up to Ireland today?
The great thing about Dublin, he writes, is its cheerful ease. "You do not see the haggard money look which is becoming characteristic of all large English cities. There is more laughter. There is no rushing about."
In Dublin, people "care nothing for appearance". Clothes don't matter. "Neither does money." The Irish are, he concludes - should I suggest naively? - completely uninterested in money.
When he takes a (horse-drawn) cab, he asks the cabbie (known as a jarvey) how much he should pay. The Dubliner replies tactfully, "I'll leave it to yourself!"
Coming through the customs at Dun Laoghaire, Morton hears a customs officer politely query the purpose of a box in a passenger's possession. The passenger explains it is a silk hat, for a funeral. Such is the Irish respect for mourning that the officer probes no further: all the man's luggage is ushered through unopened.
Irish hospitality is so generous, it is almost embarrassing. The talk is wonderful. And yet, when our traveller visits Dail Eireann (where the TDs prefer to use "their Gaelic names"), he is disappointed that a nation of such great conversationalists produces so few parliamentary orators.
Men and women in riding breeches enter Dublin hotels with mud on their boots, fresh from a session with the Meath or Kildare Hounds. "A Dublin man can shoot grouse on the hills within six miles of the General Post Office."
It's not all tickety-boo. Dubliners can sure deploy malice in their conversation, and "a wrong never dies in Ireland". Cromwell, and the Black and Tans, are ever-present.
The people of Cork, he reports, "are different from the people in other parts of Ireland... They are clannish. For centuries, they intermarried within their own walls, so that a family-feeling exists between all men of Cork."
A Corkman will take over a business in Dublin - and then, immediately, another Corkman will replace him at home (preparatory to taking over another Dublin business).
Some of his observations could be replicated today, almost unchanged. The National Stud is splendid - Ireland's horses are legendary. Glendalough, Kilkenny Cathedral, Cashel, Killarney - all awesome.
He notes that "no people are more passionately attached to the land than the Irish". He observes the "almost crazy courage and industry" with which a small farmer will scratch a feeble living from a bit of land that no English farmer would look at.
In Connemara, he sees great poverty and parents who coach their children to speak English, to prepare them for emigration to America.
And yet, he hears happy, barefoot children emerging laughing from school. The Irish are a good-humoured people, because they are a spiritual people, he concludes.
For example, in England a breakdown on the road "is a matter for anger; in Ireland, for laughter. Perhaps only nations with a profound spiritual attitude can laugh at the occasional failure of material affairs."
Morton is aware that people are sometimes telling him "tall tales". Fanciful legends about leprechauns, he takes with a pinch of salt. His criticisms include some reprimands on Irish cuisine - carelessly cooked meat and even the sacred potato presented as a watery mush, rather than the tasty delight it can be.
Although he understands that Irish-British political relations are sensitive, he regrets there is no monument to the many Irishmen who served bravely in the 1914-18 War.
An appendix to the seventh edition reveals some startling facts: the population of the Free State was tiny - 2,971,992. The Irish customs had a long list of items they would examine (leaving aside silk hats), from tobacco to footwear and all registered copyright musical works.
And there were over 20 regular sailing routes to Ireland from Britain, including ports at Drogheda and Derry.
We've changed a lot since then. Or have we?