CAMBRIDGE — This year’s edition of “The Christmas Revels” forgoes the usual cozy holiday comforts. For “An Irish Celebration of the Winter Solstice” at Sanders Theatre, Revels artistic director Patrick Swanson has bundled the Young Rakes, the Young Blades, the Rattling Brogues, the Wild Geese Chorus and Dancers, the White Star Rhymers, the Pinewoods Morris Men, the Cambridge Symphonic Brass Ensemble, and, oh yes, members of the O’Shea-Chaplin Academy of Irish Dance onto the R.M.S. “Carpathia.” It’s 1907, and the Cunard liner is bound from Liverpool to New York. Scrap the lighting of the Christmas tree; cue the blast of the ship’s horn as Lady Liberty comes into view.
This isn’t a bad idea. Midwinter, as the days start to become longer, is a time of beginnings, and these Irish emigrants — in headscarves and scally caps and more plaid than I would have expected — are embarking on a new life in America while looking nostalgically back, as emigrants do, at the world they’re leaving behind. Jeremy Barnett’s set is austere by Revels standards: a deck — presumably steerage — on the “Carpathia,” with a pair of gangways and a pair of lifeboats, all in rust red, marine blue, and dingy white. The lone concession to the season is a pair of evergreen wreaths.