Based on the Irish saying set forth above, I am certainly lucky enough — at least half of me is, on my mom’s side of the family.
Based on the Irish saying set forth above, I am certainly lucky enough — at least half of me is, on my mom’s side of the family. For those of you who were “lucky enough” to be raised by one or two Irish parents, you know what I’m talking about — faith, family, cultural pride, education (Notre Dame, of course), food and drink (with an emphasis on drink), and good old fashion storytelling.
May the blessings of each day be the blessings you need most. — Irish proverb
My mother and one of my best friends (and former college roommate) provided me with my formal education of all things Irish. In fact, when we were in college, my roommate Sean referred to St. Patrick’s Day as the “holiest of holy days” — needless to say, nothing has changed since college. He considers himself to be “very lucky” because he was raised by two Irish parents. In fact, Sean is so Irish that he founded a highly successful Irish dancing school in 1997 called, The Culkin School of Traditional Irish Dance, which is located in the Washington, D.C. area. Sean’s students have performed at many famous venues, including The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Stephen: [looking to the sky] Alright, Father, I’ll ask him. …
Hamish: Is your father a ghost, or do you converse with the Almighty?
Stephen: In order to find his equal, an Irishman is forced to talk to God.
— Dialogue from the movie Braveheart (1995 Academy Award-Winning Best Picture).
If you live in an Irish household, today will likely involve a few traditions such as wearing green (bonus points for wearing a lapel pin with an image of a shamrock, Irish flag, or leprechaun); eating corned beef, cabbage, and soda bread; and drinking Guinness stout. If you know nothing of Ireland, you can “fake it till you make it,” by going to a local Irish pub, or by learning a few fun facts related to St. Patrick’s Day and Irish Americans.
- St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17, his religious feast day and the anniversary of his death in the 5th century. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for over a thousand years.
- The shamrock, which was also called the “seamroy” by the Celts, was a sacred plant in ancient Ireland because it symbolized the rebirth of spring. By the 17th century, the shamrock had become a symbol of emerging Irish nationalism.
- Music is often associated with St. Patrick’s Day and Irish culture in general. From the ancient days of the Celts, music has always been an important part of Irish life. The Celts had an oral culture, where religion, legend and history were passed from one generation to the next by way of stories and songs.
- It has long been recounted that during his mission in Ireland, St. Patrick once stood on a hilltop (which is now called Croagh Patrick) with only a wooden staff by his side, and banished all the snakes from the island. In fact, the island nation was never home to any snakes. The “banishing of the snakes” was really a metaphor for the eradication of pagan ideology from Ireland and the triumph of Christianity. Within 200 years of Patrick’s arrival, Ireland was completely Christianized.
- In 1959, Walt Disney released a film called Darby O’Gill & the Little People, which introduced America to a very different sort of leprechaun, as compared to the cantankerous little man of Irish folklore. This cheerful, friendly leprechaun is a purely American invention, but has quickly evolved into an easily recognizable symbol of both St. Patrick’s Day and Ireland in general.
- Though cabbage has long been an Irish food, corned beef only began to be associated with St. Patrick’s Day at the turn of the 20th century. Irish immigrants living on New York City’s Lower East Side substituted corned beef for their traditional dish of Irish bacon to save money.
- The Irish are not required to be Boston Celtics fans — go with a winner and side with the Los Angeles Lakers. (Sorry, that’s commentary rather than fact!)
- When the Great Potato Famine hit Ireland in 1845, close to a million poor and uneducated Irish Catholics began pouring into the U.S. to escape starvation.
- There are 36.9 million U.S. residents with Irish roots. This number is more than eight times the population of Ireland itself (4.5 million).
- Across the U.S., 12 percent of residents lay claim to Irish ancestry. That number doubles to 24 percent in the state of Massachusetts.
- The first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in the U.S., not in Ireland. Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City on March 17, 1762.
- The New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade is the world’s oldest civilian parade and the largest in the U.S., with over 150,000 participants.
- Chicago is famous for a somewhat peculiar St. Patrick’s Day annual event: dyeing the Chicago River green. The tradition started in 1962, when city pollution-control workers used dyes to trace illegal sewage discharges and realized that the green dye might provide a unique way to celebrate the holiday. That year, they released 100 pounds of green vegetable dye into the river—enough to keep it green for a week! Today, in order to minimize environmental damage, only 40 pounds of dye are used, making the river green for only several hours.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish my mom (and her sisters) and the Culkin family all the best on this special day. At Libby’s H*O*P*E*, we also wish you and yours a Happy St. Patrick’s Day.
May you always walk in sunshine. May you never want for more. May Irish angels rest their wings right beside your door.
In the tradition of Irish music on St. Patrick’s Day, we leave you with a song by the Irish-American band Flogging Molly, entitled If I Ever Leave This World Alive. This song is dedicated to those women who have lost their battle to ovarian cancer, but who inspire us to continue the fight for, and support of, ovarian cancer survivors and their families.
If I Ever Leave This World Alive, by Flogging Molly