One St. Patrick’s Day morning when I was in the third grade, as Shillue family legend has it, I barged into the kitchen wearing my green sweater and paper leprechaun hat.
“Erin Go Bragh!” I mispronounced in my loudest voice.
“You’re late!” my mother shouted.
“What? We have to go to school? But it’s a holiday!”
“Not for everybody.”
I grew up the very Irish Catholic town of Norwood, Massachusetts, and everyone I knew took the holiday quite seriously. Even my favorite Irish restaurant, McDonald’s, had green shakes every year. So naturally, I expected we’d all have the day off.
I still enjoy the holiday and all its traditions and symbols. Did you know that legend says that St. Patrick used the Shamrock to teach pagans about the Holy Trinity? The three-leaf clover was used to remember the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (I have never had much trouble remembering that one, but I could use something to help me with the Apostles Creed; I still struggle with that one and I’ve been saying it every Sunday for as far back as I can remember.)
I’ll certainly celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year, but I probably won’t be braving the streets of New York City. I don’t want to begrudge anyone a good time, but some of the celebrations get a bit excessive. I love a parade, but I could do without the public “cheer.”
You know why we Irish Catholics take a drink on St. Patrick’s Day? Because it was expected that we’d be fasting and abstaining from alcohol during Lent, and traditionally we’d be granted a dispensation so we could celebrate and toast the great St. Patrick.
It’s a great tradition! But take a look at the folks filling the streets of New York City on St. Patrick’s Day – they don’t exactly look like they just got off a holy fast and a month-long dry spell.
Perhaps I should be charitable and give my fellow Irishmen the benefit of the doubt. After all, that’s another reason for all the parades and celebrations – early Irish immigrants to this country suffered a low social status, and used the holiday as a way to assert their ethnic pride.
Social status is not really an issue for us today, but we Irishmen still may get our ire up when we read commentaries like this screed published in Newsweek last October, headlined: “WHY ARE ALL THE CONSERVATIVE LOUDMOUTHS IRISH AMERICAN?”
I don’t consider myself a “conservative loudmouth,” but if someone labels me that way I guess I’d have to wear it with pride. Here’s me discussing the Newsweek article on “Fox & Friends.”
I hope you have a Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Since it’s on a Saturday this year, I’m letting my kids stay home from school. It’s a time to celebrate, so raise a glass and enjoy yourself. Then, remember, it’s still Lent, so get back to fasting and praying!