I had a feeling something was going on this morning when I looked in the mirror and my eyes were trying to smile. Then I remembered, it is St. Patrick’s Day. As I slip into my green outfit, I think, “Everyone at the office will be wearing green today. I don’t want to be different.”
Everyone wants to be Irish. They go to extraordinary lengths to find Irish relatives and trace their geology back to Ireland. I turn on the radio and hear strains of “Danny Boy” on an Irish flute as it plays for the first of the many times I will hear it today. I have my morning coffee and flavor the black brew with a white stream of Irish cream, just because it seems like the right thing to do.
I wonder whether to go to the grocery and buy some of the bloody, red, corned beef with spices and one of the green cabbages from the huge display mound in the grocery store, or whether just to opt for a Rueben sandwich from the deli. Deli will do just fine, I decide. While I’m there, I can pick up a loaf of green bread or a Key Lime Pie from the bakery. Of course, Key Lime Pie has nothing to do with Ireland, other than the mere coincidence of being green.
Today is a day when every one appreciates my auburn hair and is even just a bit envious. They will ask me a dozen times if I’m Irish and, of course, I will probably lie and say that I am, when in fact I don’t have the slightest idea whether I am or not. I really don’t know what my lineage is or why my mother gave me an Irish name.
The Scotch-Irish settled in the area where my ancestors came from, as attested by the names of towns such as Erin. But hard as I try, the only thing I can find for sure that is Irish in my house is potatoes, and even their lineage is a bit suspect.
Some people really become enthusiastic over St. Patrick’s Day, mostly because it is an opportunity to drink green beer and party. By the time the evening is over they will be seeing leprechauns and the slurred speech may not be because of an Irish brogue.
I’m surprised that St. Patrick’s day has not yet been declared a national holiday since a large percentage of the population claimed Irish heritage on the last census, at least according to what I’ve heard.
The novae Irish carry cards with a picture of St. Patrick on one side and an Irish blessing on the other. They are all named Patty O’ Something, and are offended if someone suggests that they are not Irish. They have bumper stickers that say, “Kiss me – I’m Irish,” and drink Irish whiskey to show how patriotic to Ireland they are.
Personally, I’m not sure what a limerick is exactly, or how to dance an Irish jig, or what the difference is between a shamrock and a clover, if any. I’m not sure either why claiming heritage from a country where people kill each other over religious and political differences and where hate is carried on through generations of violence is a desirable thing.
But eons of Irish poets and great literary figures have woven a romantic and legendary tradition of the Celtic people that has grown to enormous proportion.
And so, we celebrate the Irish and their contributions to our country, which was largely built through the sweat of the Irish immigrants. We embrace the shamrock trilogy and the symbolic green of the Emerald Isle. We cannot help but admire the hardy people who have faced great diversity and hardship good-naturedly.
On this most Irish of all days, we wear our green and try to be Irish, when, in fact, the most Irish thing about us is probably the fact that we have “kissed the ol’ blarney stone” and deceive ourselves that we are Irish-for-a-day.