As February comes to a close and we enter March, I am looking forward to some (hopefully) warmer weather and the approach of Spring.
With Spring comes St. Patrick's Day - this is a holiday about which I have mixed feelings. My parents both immigrated to the US in their early 20's - my Dad from Scotland and my Mom from Ireland. My brother and I grew up with a strong sense of our heritage as my parents tried to find that balance between assimilating to their new country, the country of our births and preserving customs and traditions from their homelands.
My Mom left behind her entire family in County Mayo and she made a concerted effort to bring us back to visit them every year so that the connection wouldn't be broken - I have many fond memories of summers spent in Ireland enjoying the new found freedom afforded by the open fields that surrounded my grandparents' home. I know it was difficult to save every year to go "home" and I will always be grateful to my parents for making that sacrifice -the opportunity to know my family in Ireland and to travel the country is priceless and it has cemented my connection to my heritage.
Corned Beef and Cabbage?
St. Patrick's Day in the United States - the celebration is marked by green beer, leprechauns and "wearing of the green". Somehow, none of that reconciles with what I know of my Irish heritage and it seems to make a mockery of the rich culture of the Irish. Growing up, my Grandmother would send my brother and I authentic St. Patrick's Day "badges" with live shamrock which my Mom would proudly pin to our school uniforms. There were no special meals or other traditions partly because the holiday has generally (until recent years) been celebrated as a religious holiday in Ireland and partly because the touchstones of our Irish heritage - the food, the music, etc were really already incorporated into our daily lives so there was no need to do anything differently on March 17th. In this National Geographic article, another daughter of an expat Irish family recalls a similar experience - badges with shamrocks and all!
At the same time, however, we celebrate St. Patrick's Day so raucously in the US thanks to the long history of Irish immigrants who have made this country their home. The experience of maintaining connections to your roots and pride in your heritage - no matter how many generations back - while still pledging allegiance to this country is a uniquely American experience. I am happy to be in a country where these connections are celebrated and enjoy watching everyone being "Irish for a Day" - I realize now that it doesn't diminish my heritage at all but rather adds to the richness of it.
Celebrating St. Patrick's Day - My Way
In celebration of St. Patrick's Day, I will feature reviews of books set in Ireland and/or by Irish authors over the next three weeks in the lead up to March 17th. Ireland has a deep literary history spanning from W.B. Yeats and James Joyce to contemporary favorites such as Anne Enright, Colm Toibin and Maeve Binchy. I am looking forward to sharing some of my favorites with you and also reading some new books/authors. I am participating in the Ireland Reading Challenge hosted by Carrie at Books and Movies (head over there -you can still sign up) and plan to get some reading done for the challenge in these 3 weeks.
What are your favorite Irish books or authors? Leave a comment and let me know and feel free to link to any reviews!
Slainte (Good Luck)!