Friday, March 17, 2006

It's Not Easy Being Green

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone.

Are you wearing your green? I certainly am, even though I couldn't tell you why. Seriously. I've never understood what this holiday is all about. It's kind of sad, really. My extended family (at least in the Boston area) is huge and consists almost entirely of Irish folk who celebrate the day with Guinness, various shades of green attire, boiled dinner, and 'Erin Go Bragh' banners. Yet growing up, almost none of them could tell me what in fact this holiday was celebrating - other than general Irishness and some nonsense about St. Patrick driving all the snakes out of Ireland.

(They have snakes in Ireland? Nooooo, stupid! Not anymore. St Patrick drove 'em all out! Sheesh.)

I'm actually an Irish citizen (although not by birth; dual citizenship with the U.S. - Ireland's citizenship rules were so lenient at one point that any 2nd or 3rd generation Irish were eligible if you had the proper documentation, regardless of whether or not you were born on the soil) and I know precious little about the patron saint of my... er... one of my countries. And beyond that, why do the Irish get a holiday and no one else? I'm also half German. Why don't I get to celebrate St. Gunter's Day and eat lots of bratwurst and sauerkraut while dressed in lederhosen? Actually, I think I just answered my own question. Nevermind.

I know, I know. St. Patrick's Day is nothing more than an excuse to throw a few parades, dye a river green, and get drunk. That's what most people will tell you, and I would tend to agree. Still, I find that an unsatisfactory explanation. So I went to (what else?) Google and did a little research. Here's what I found:

'What originally started as a day of mourning the death of the patron saint of Ireland on March 17 in 461 A.D. has long since turned into a celebration of everything Irish.

St. Patrick was born as Maewyn in Wales around 385 A.D. At the age of sixteen he was kidnapped by bandits and sold into slavery in Ireland, where he lived for six years, herding sheep and developing a strong faith in God. Upon his escape to Gaul he studied in a monastery for many years, entered the priesthood and later was appointed as second bishop to Ireland—his desire was to return to Ireland and to convert the people there to the Christian faith, a tumultuous mission that lasted 30 years.

St. Patrick did manage to convert thousands of Irish to Christianity; he founded hundreds of churches and, according to lore, "drove the snakes out of Ireland," an act symbolizing the victory of the Christian faith over pagan rituals. In order to explain the idea of the holy trinity to local tribesmen, he used the three-leaf shamrock, its green color signifying renewal and the coming of spring after a long period of winter and "pagan" darkness.

Interestingly, the first St. Patrick's Day parade took place not in Ireland, but in the United States. Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City on March 17, 1762.'

O.K. Well that's a little better explanation, at least. And you know what? Because it's 3:00 on a Friday, I think I'm going to stop questioning this whole St. Patrick's Day thing. Time for an about face. All this intense examination kind of ruins the flavor, don't you think? Right. I'll shut up now. But before I do, in the spirit of St. Patrick's Day (the traditional one that we drink and carouse to - not the mourning of the actual saint because that's no fun), here are a few things to leave you with.

First, because this is fast becoming a habit on this blog, music. Raise a glass if that's your thing, and by all means, tap your feet:

The Clancy Brothers - Tim Finnegan's Wake: A traditional Irish tune from a traditional Irish band. Short and sweet and full of dark humor. As you'll hear in the intro, this is an old Irish street 'ballad' which, rumor has it, was the basis for James Joyce's utterly bizarre novel, Finnegan's Wake. I think the song is much better.

Flogging Molly - What's Left Of The Flag: For those who like their Irish music a bit more... um... modern. When I first heard this back in '02 it was my favorite tune for about three months. Then some other song which I don't remember took its place, but I still break this one out from time to time. A fun, high-energy song that's great to drink to, or at least jump up and down to (and no, that wasn't a House of Pain reference. They're embarrassing.)

Guinness Wallpaper, Screensavers & Posters: None of this green beer crap. Guinness is a real Irishman's drink.... I think. Anyhoo, here are some.. well.. screensavers, wallpaper, and posters. Not so impressed? Neither am I. Fine. Here is the link to those ads they have on TV where the two brew master guys scream "Brilliant!" at each other. Those ads kill me... (Note: before you can get to either of these pages you'll have to enter your birth date to prove you're of legal drinking age.)

Leprechaun FAQ:'s page regarding leprechauns, which even offers instructions on building a leprechaun trap. And, to get all cute on you, here are some traps made by elementary school kids.

South Boston St. Patrick's Day Parade: The residents of Southie are a proud lot. Most of them think they're more Irish than the Irish, and they throw a parade that reflects this. Here is the info on this year's parade as well as some photos from previous parades throughout the years (pictures of drunken thugs heaving into gutters are among the notable omissions, however.) The parade can be a lot of fun if you're at the right spot in the route. This info may help, and it will also give you some ideas for good places around the city to go and celebrate.

Irish Recipes: Irish food can't claim to be... well... good, but there are a few dishes that when prepared well are certainly appetizing enough. Here are a few: County Cork Irish Stew, Irish Soda Bread, Potato Cabbage and Irish Bacon Casserole. Yummm...

There you are, folks. A Friday links page and a St. Patrick's Day tribute all in one. Have a safe and fun holiday. Watch the whiskey and mind the heavy heads in the mornin'. Slainte.


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