Oh, so many ways to start this post.
First, to all my Irish (and Irish wannabe) friends, Top o’ the morning and the rest o’ the day to you. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.
My very favorite Irish cartoon was given to me by a man by the name of Tiger Donohue. Ok, that wasn’t his real name, it was John, but I called him Tiger and his wife, Agnes, I called Tiger’s Lady. The Donohues, all of them, were my surrogate family. Tiger is gone now, as is Jane, my surrogate sister, Tiger’s Lady and Susie, one of my best friends, keep on trucking. But I digress. Tiger gave me a comic from The Daily News. It showed two gladiators in the coliseum, one says to the other, “The Irish are fighting and the lions are afraid to come out.” Now that’s Irish.
As for me, I’m half German, a quarter French, and a quarter Italian. But on this day, I’m Irish.
My first memories of St. Patrick ’s Day go back to my early childhood when my Dad gave me a four leaf clover. I carried it in my wallet until someone stole the wallet. My second, and much more fun memories, take place in New York City. As a young woman, I did my time as a secretary to the National Sales Manager of a gold jewelry company located at 580 Fifth Avenue. 580 Fifth was an old building with double hung windows that stood on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 47th Street. My office had a window, but it faced 47th Street. On the first St. Patrick’s Day I worked for the company, I discovered that if I opened the window, sat on the sill and hung outside, I could watch the parade. I spent all of St. Paddy’s Day watching the Fifth Avenue parade go by. By the time the parade ended, the workday was done and we all went around the corner to 36th Street and enjoyed green beer and corned beef sandwiches at the Pig N Whistle. Maybe not as much fun as Chicago turning the river green, but by New York standards, it was mighty fine.
What are some of the surprises about St. Patrick? Well, for starters, he wasn’t Irish. He was born in Britain, kidnapped by Irish pirates, taken to Ireland, and sold into slavery. He escaped, returned home, and then returned to Ireland as a missionary. The celebration of St. Patrick started in Northern Ireland many years after the death of St. Patrick. It was strictly religious. In fact, since it fell during Lent, the pubs were closed, so green beer was not on the agenda. St. Patrick’s Day, as we know it, is an American invention. Sort of. You see, the Irish immigrated to the US in large numbers, but they were not welcomed with open arms. The Irish wanted a day that told the world they were proud to be Irish, so, they began St. Patrick ’s Day parades. The whole thing snowballed from there.
Oh, and that thing about driving the snakes from Ireland. Well, probably not true since herpetologists will tell you there never were snakes in Ireland.
How is that for a surprise? St. Patrick’s Day is a Saint’s day celebrating a man born in Britain with a US born celebration. Now that’s what I call a melting pot.
On this day, I would like to thank the Donohue family for always being there for me and never making me feel an outsider. Tiger’s Lady was born in Belfast so it is truly her holiday. A tip of my hat and a shamrock kiss to you.
What about you? What are your St. Patrick’s Day memories?