Tag Archives: St. Patrick’s Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day 2012

St. Patrick’s Day is nearly over. I didn’t do too much this year– I wore my requisite green shirt, and striped green socks, and even drank a holiday themed beer in the evening, however overall the day was relatively low key, as P and I were both busy working on projects, shackled to our respective computers.

Conversely, P’s younger brother U was in Dublin, celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in style with our Irish friend RH and our former neighbor D (who several months ago resettled in the Emerald Isle). U was periodically uploading pictures of his St. Patrick’s Day activities on Facebook, giving us a glimpse of what the party was like in the Irish-American “motherland.”

U, RH and D in Dublin

I’ve mentioned before that my family considers itself “Irish-American.” On my mother’s side my grandfather immigrated from Western Ireland (I believe in the 40s), and my grandmother’s parents were also both from that region of the country. On my father’s side the connection stretches back farther, but the family still takes pride in it’s “Irish-American” roots. As an “Irish-American” St. Patrick’s Day has always been an acknowledged and celebrated part of the spring calendar.

Growing up my father was part of an Irish-American club in the town, and I remember many childhood St. Patrick’s Days spent at the club helping to serve corned beef and cabbage dinners to townspeople who came by the hundreds every March 17th. Many of them probably considered themselves “Irish-American” as well but I’m sure others just wanted to join in the fun and celebrate along with their friends and neighbors.

We would watch Irish step dancers perform and listen to recordings of Irish pub songs that relied heavily on accordions and fiddles. Everyone in the club was bathed in Kelly Green… shirts, pants, dresses, socks, scarves. Some wore plastic shamrock shaped shot glasses hanging from green Mardi Gras bead necklaces, others wore headbands with cheesy shamrock antenna, and little kids often sported sparkly green shamrock stickers on their cheeks. As far as I was concerned, as a kid, everyone in the world celebrated St. Patrick’s Day.

Then in sixth grade I signed up for a youth magazine that had a pen pal section in the back. For several years I often responded to pen pal requests, and I advertised for pen pals as well. I had quite a few, some in the US, but also several from abroad– including one kid I exchanged several letters with from Singapore. He had responded to my pen pal request printed in the magazine, explaining he was of Indian origin and his name was Manuj. In response to the letter he sent I told him a little about myself, and talked about my excitement for St. Patrick’s Day, which was coming a few days later. In the letter I asked him about how he celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, and what people do for the holiday in Singapore.

A few weeks passed and I received a letter back that contained shocking information for the sixth grade version of me… “We don’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Singapore, as there are not a lot of Irish people here. Since my family is from India, we have never done anything for St. Patrick’s Day, but it was interesting to hear what your family does.” It was one of those “aha” moments for me that made me realize that other parts of world really are different.

After meeting our Irish friend, I’ve had several other “aha” moments about my understanding of “Irish-American” culture, and how it differs from “real Irish” culture– including my name. I think I mentioned this before, but I always thought my first name was a super-uber Irish name, but later realized (and this really shook up my world!) that my name is only popular in Irish-diaspora cultures like the US and Australia, and hardly anyone in Ireland proper has my name because it is a gaelic noun.

I think RH had similarly strange “aha” moments (I am assuming, he can correct me if I am wrong) after coming to the US for his graduate studies. Many Americans, particularly in New England which is a large “Irish-American” stronghold, had a lot of stereotypical views of what an “Irish” person was supposed to be like, and RH often didn’t adhere to their expectations.

So when U decided to travel to Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day RH was a little worried that U would be disappointed. St. Patrick’s Day is often an excuse for people in the US to go a little crazy, drinking green beer and sharing their Irish pride all over the place… but these crazy celebrations are often in Irish-diaspora cities. Dublin has a parade and celebrations, but RH worried that U might expect the biggest St. Patrick’s Day party ever, the granddaddy of them all, so to speak.

It seems from the pictures that the festivities were fun, and U had the “authentic” Irish St. Patrick’s Day party he was hoping for.

If you are interested in learning more about the creation of “Irish-American” cultural identity NPR had an interesting 45 minute radio program on Tom Ashbrook’s “On Point” the other day called “How the Irish became American” arguing, in part, that “Irish-American” identity was one of the first hyphenated identities in the US. It’s definitely worth a listen.

Hope you all had a nice day… whether you celebrated St. Patrick’s Day or not :)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day (again)

It’s March 17th– so that means I’m wearing green, I’m ready to meet friends for a beer after work, and perhaps even make a “boiled dinner.” That’s right, it’s St. Patrick’s Day. I wrote about the meaning of the holiday last year in my family, so this year I’ll write about something related but different.

Working in the field of International Education is great. I frequently talk to people from different countries, and I am always learning new things. This past week I attended a program organized by my Iranian students about Nuwroz (Persian New Year), and had a chance to share in various cultural activities. I also get to experience a lot of Nepali cultural activities, and although I do hold my own with organizing Thanksgiving, Christmas, Halloween (etc) …  there is one cultural activity I wish I had partaken in while I was younger so I could tap (literally and figuratively) into this particular skill today.

When I go to a lot of these cultural programs there are often many songs and dances from the local region. I’ve been put on the spot many a time when I’ve been asked, “sing an American [or Irish] song” or “do an American [or Irish] dance.” Sure, I can break out with a chicken dance, but I’d really love to break out with… some Irish Step Dancing moves.

See, when I was in high school my younger sisters signed up for Irish Step Dancing lessons at the local AOH club my dad was a member of. At the time I was on the high school swim and track teams (not that I was any good), and thought I was too cool to go to “dancing” class. Each St. Patrick’s Day the Irish Step students would put on a show for people coming to eat the corned beef and cabbage sandwiches and green beer at the club, and I would sit with the rest of the crowd while my sisters tapped their feet and danced with the group.

Now I really wish I took those classes too. How neat would it be to be in a crowd of people singing and dancing to Nepali songs, be prompted to show something from “my” culture, and jump up to perform an impressive jig? One night my Irish friend and I even looked at Irish step dancing videos on Youtube to try and get some of the footwork down, but it’s actually pretty complicated and challenging. I think I almost pulled a calf muscle!

Maybe one of these days, when I’ve got some spare time and cash, I’ll sign up for a class. I think it would be fun… and I’d totally volunteer a jig at that next cultural gathering!

(If only I could dance like these girls…)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

As I’ve noted before, my family takes pride in its Irish heritage. My maternal grandfather immigrated from Ireland when he was in his 20s, and my maternal grandmother’s parents were from the same county in western Ireland as my grandfather. On my father’s side the connection goes back farther, but they still celebrate their Irish roots. Thus St. Patrick’s Day in my family has always been a big deal.

At the very least, one has to wear green on March 17th to celebrate. When my little sister was younger, she used to go all out (she probably still does, I’ll have to ask), painting her face the colors of the Irish flag, and wearing shamrock stickers, Irish flags and other Irish paraphernalia all over her body on St. Patrick’s Day. As kids my dad was president of the local Ancient Order of Hibernians club, and we would help out by making corned beef sandwiches and “boiled” dinners (boiled cabbage, carrots, and potatoes with corned beef) at the club, with Irish music blaring from the stereo, while we served people dressed head-to-toe in green.

Since we always did something on St. Patrick’s Day, it took me a long time to realize that not everyone around the world celebrated the day. When I was in elementary school I had an Indian pen pal who lived in Malaysia. I asked him what he did for St. Patrick’s Day and he told me (much to my elementary school surprise) that there weren’t many Irish people in Malaysia, so they didn’t celebrate (wha?). Then when I lived in France, I wished everyone a “bon fete de St. Patrice!” to which most people responded, “But my name’s not Patrick.” (since in France each day has a saint associated with it, and on the saint’s day associated with your name you wish people a “bon fete”). Since it wasn’t a big deal there either, I decided to go all out… totally dressing in green and making sure to wish everyone a Happy St. Patrick’s Day anyway whether their name was Patrice or not.

P has celebrated several St. Patrick’s Days with us– a few at the old AOH club we grew up at. I can’t say that he is a big fan of “boiled” Irish dinners he used to eat the cabbage, potatoes, carrots and ham… and I’d eat the cabbage, potatoes and carrots. The lack of “spice” (unless you count salt and pepper) disappoints the palate if you are used to more flavorful fair, but he tries it none-the-less.

So if you get the chance, try to take a moment to do something to commemorate the day… have a slice of Irish Soda Bread, try a boiled dinner, listen to some Irish music, but on a green shirt, or at least enjoy a beer… because as they say at the Guinness Factory, “Everyone is Irish on March 17th!”