Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone! Whether you’re Irish or not, you’re honorary Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.
While most people my age associate St. Patrick’s Day with drinking and green beer, St. Paddy’s Day is really a religious and cultural holiday that was originally an official feast day (thus the eating and the drinking). St. Patrick was born in Britain in the fourth century, and at age 16, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and was taken captive as a slave in Ireland. According to him, God spoke to him in a dream and told him to flee to the coast and take a ship back to Britain. Once he returned, he began studying to become a priest. In 432 he returned to Ireland as a Bishop and began to preach Christianity in the traditionally polytheistic Ireland. He used the clover to explain the holy trinity (father, son, holy spirit) to the pagan Irish, which is where the association with the clover and Ireland came from. The reason we celebrate on March 17th is because that is the date of St. Patrick’s death.
In my family, St. Patrick’s day was always special. My father’s family is 100% Irish with origins along the southern coast of the country. 10 years ago, my parents, my sister, and I went to Ireland to do genealogy research and to visit. We visited a few towns that my family is from including Kerry, Cork, and Kilkenny. It was beautiful – the greenest grass you will ever see in your life.
When we were younger, my mother would always make homemade soda bread and corned beef and cabbage (not an authentic Irish meal – very much Irish-American) and my father would blast Irish folk music. In fact, I remember my father blasting Irish drinking songs and folk music all the time as a kid. Van Morrison, The Pogues, The Chieftains.
Growing up, being Irish was something that was always talked about in a very proud way. My paternal grandmother, Nana Sis, was the Irish matriarch of our entire family (Irish families are VERY matriarchal).
She was very proud to be Irish and so was her husband, Papa Chuck. He used to talk a lot about how crazy these Irish folks are for thinking that returning to the ‘home country’ was a good idea (during the late 90’s and early 00’s, there was a push for Irish Americans to return home and live in Ireland). He used to say, “They left because they were god-damned starving from no food! And now they want to go back!? Why? There’s nothing there! Unless they want to become farmers. Stupid.” Opinionated – that’s my family.
Holidays were spent eating a ton of food, and then communing around the table with Jameson shots and Bailey’s in little glasses. Story upon story would be told; the adults progressively getting louder and more boisterous as the bottles empty.
Nana Sis and Papa Chuck are no longer with us, and their absence is definitely felt at certain times of the year, March 17th being one of them. I’m lucky that this year I’ll actually get to see my parents (albeit for a short period of time) today! They’re headed to town to come watch the race tomorrow, so they’re stopping in Boston on the way to New Bedford. After 7 months, my mom will finally get to see my apartment, and they’re both going to see Bernie’s condo (and my future home).
How are you celebrating today? Does your family celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Is another holiday particularly special to your family?