Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sunday Salon - Irish on St. Patrick's Day

Irish on St. Patrick's Day
St. Patrick's Day - 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.

Mom, Brother and me - Ireland circa 1979

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 us 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!

Me - Irish Step Dancing at Feis, circa 1985

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.

Beannachtaí na Féile Páraic oraibh! (visit here for translation and pronunciation)

Short Stories from Author Aine Greaney
Author Aine Greaney (review of her book Dance Lessons) currently has three short stories posted on her website free to readers through March 17th.  All three stories are set in Ireland.  The author calls them "Love and infidelity, Irish style".  I am looking forward to reading more from this author!

The winner of my giveaway of Gilded Age by Claire McMillan is Debbie from ExUrbanis.  Congratulations - I have sent an email for your contact details!

My giveaway for The Admission Movie Prize Pack is still open - enter until March 21st for a chance to win! 


  1. Thanks for sharing! I've never been a green beer drinker - I'm not much of a party-goer, and I've wondered what the Irish thought about the American version. Thanks for sharing your memories.

  2. You write from a very unique perspective, Colleen. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the pictures. No green beer for us, but I did make a Chocolate Guinness Cake today!

  3. Thanks for the win, Colleen. I'm looking forward to reading Gilded Age!