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Happy St. Patrick’s Day —What Being Irish Means to Me

I have spent many-a-March 17th drinking pints of green beer, shots of Jameson and chugging a good ol’ Irish car bomb in the most Irish of America’s pubs with names like Eammon’s, McSorley’s, and The Parting Glass. I would ponder questions like What Should We Do With a Drunken Sailor and what the hell does Whack for my Daddy O mean?  As a proud Irish-American, St. Patrick’s Day has always been one of my favorite days of the year. 

My traditions have changed throughout the years, and while I no longer chug beer and greet March 18th with a hangover (thank god), I do celebrate the life and accomplishments of St. Patrick, who brought Christianity to Ireland and died on March 17th (in or around 461 AD). 

I celebrate with my kids now. A leprechaun visits our house overnight, turns our milk green and puts chocolate coins in our shoes. We track listen to Irish music, eat a totally American dinner (we don’t like corned beef and cabbage), and sing our favorite Irish hits as we toast with our sodas. With two step dancers in the family, I typically encourage my girls to jig, to which they proclaim how annoying I am. Then I threaten to fake step dance, they say they are leaving, and we laugh and argue and sometimes our Irish tempers come out and it all makes for a great St. Patrick’s Day. 

Perhaps one of the best things about St. Patrick’s Day is that you need not be Irish to participate in the celebrations. As the Irish say, “everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!” Though the spread of the coronavirus will make this St. Patrick Day a somber one (I never thought I would utter those words), but in its honor we thought it would still be worth it to look back at some St. Patrick’s Day memories and traditions — from those who are Irish, or not, and to all who are Irish on March 17th.

Irish Drink

“Every year on St. Patrick’s Day I bust out my favorite Irish toasts: ‘If water was beer and I was a duck, I’d swim to the bottom and never come up!’ or ‘ Here’s to being single, seeing double, and drinking triple!’” – Liam, 26

“St Patrick’s day was always a special day in our family. One great reason we all looked forward to it is because we got a dispensation for whatever you gave up for lent: you could have candy on that day! Or in later years, that glass of wine.” – Pat, 72

“I spent last year at my daughter’s Irish dancing school’s St Paddy’s party, and ended up wrecking my ankle on the way home, dancing down the road after a few too many glasses of Prosecco. Hilariously my mom friend who was there with her son did the other foot on her own way home. We are no longer allowed out together.” – Frances, 33

“My father-in-law teased his sister-in-law and her husband about attending St. Patrick’s Day parties. Two of their five children were born nine months after the holiday!” – Joseph, 63 

Irish Food

“45 years ago, I invited our dear friends and their four children to St. Patrick’s Day dinner. She couldn’t believe I invited all of them and told me that no one had invited the whole family for dinner before. We made placemats and name tags with shamrocks and told them they had to wear something green. They had never had corned beef and cabbage, and my meal was a hit! So, it became a tradition for us and it has been a true blessing to share this meal with the same friends for over 45 years. St Patrick’s Day gave us dear friends to grow old together with. What a gift and a blessing. I love my Patron saint!” – Patricia, 72

“We love celebrating St. Patrick’s Day at our house. We have several birthdays in March as well that we cram into the celebration. I got lazy [one] year and we had Barry’s Irish Pub cater the corned beef, cabbage and everything else. Lucky for us, it was so good we had them back for two more years. But I’ll be cooking this year and including Sheppard’s Pie!” – Tom, 69

Irish Dancing

“I used to think everyone took off [from work and school] on March 17th to celebrate! As ‘jiggers’ my sister and I loved St. Patrick’s Day; we often got to perform for the whole month of March at nursing homes, march in parades, kicking up our heels in our fun Irish step dancing costumes. Now, almost 40, I still love Irish music and kicking up my heels whenever I can. Sharing Irish music with my own kids is probably my favorite part. – K.S, 39

The house would always be filled with music on that special day. I remember my Mom teaching us the words to ‘H A double R I G A N spells Harrigan – That’s Me!’ ‘Danny Boy’ was also a musical staple on St. Patrick’s Day. My Mom also taught us the Irish Jig. I have six sisters but I was the best of all of them at the jig. Move your feat fast and keep your arms at your side totally stiff and straight said Mom.” – Nanno, 72

“With Irish music playing in the background we would perform the few steps we knew for my parents, proudly announcing that we were Irish via the buttons we wore (and had worn to school that day). ‘Kiss Me I’m Irish.’ There was something almost illicit about advertising kiss-requests at the age of eight, nine, 10, and yet we had the approval of our parents to do so. My dad bought us these buttons the evening before. I think what my parents were approving was the same thing they were feeling themselves: pride. My mom and dad were in this together, a couple who created this family that was now dancing a jig.”  – Christine, 50

Irish Magic

“My parents introduced all eleven of their children to the birthday fairy at an early age. The birthday fairy, who may or may not be related to the Tooth Fairy, was an Irish invention. The birthday fairy leaves a gift under your bed on your birthday.” – Nan, 72

“My daughter created a leprechaun trap all on her own this year. The leprechaun falls through the tissue paper and onto a shamrock path. She also created a reading den in case he wants to rest! She is super proud and hoping that the leprechaun leaves some coins! Given that we love this holiday so much, I am glad we started this tradition. Add it to the list of Santa, tooth fairy and the Easter bunny!  Keep believing!” -Janine, 40

Whatever it is you do on March 17th, from my Irish heart to yours: “Whatever you do, wherever you go, may the luck of the Irish be with you.” Sláinte, friends. 

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