I have often caught myself loving St. Patrick's Day almost as much as I love Christmas. In fact, now that the nostalgic sadness of Christmas 2011 has ceased from my veins, I could say that it may even be my favorite holiday. (Don't let me hear myself saying that come November!) But yes, ever since I was a small child this holiday has had a very special meaning to myself and my family as we had many traditions and loving memories that go alongside of it.
Some people don't quite understand the love for a Hallmark holiday when it's clearly overly-commercialized and doesn't seem to have any sort of relevant importance to the rest of the world. Heck, I'll admit that St. Patty's is just an excuse for a lot of Bostonians to go out and get shitfaced together and pretend that they're Irish when they may or may not have the last name to prove it such as a generic "Murphy" or "O'Brien".
(For those of you who did not know this, India Pearl is my first and middle name, so yes it is my real name but my last name is a proud and unusual "Daughney" which is quite similar to more popular Irish last names such as "Donaghue" and the like. Please don't be annoyed if you're a closer friend and you had no idea, the only people who really know it are my family and whoever writes me a check.)
Anyway, when I was young I was told on a very regular basis that I was Irish, and my freckles were homegrown to prove it to the rest of the world. I was brought home Woolie sweaters from Ireland when my Nana went on her travels, we had Irish music playing at almost every holiday aside from the 4th of July, and I was put into Irish Step Dancing class so that I would have to put on a little jig at family parties. Everyone would say they were so proud of me for keeping up the tradition, and I was having fun being in the Worcester St. Patrick's Day Parade every year.
God rest her soul, my step dancing teacher Mary McInerny passed away a couple of years ago from cancer. Her kids were very young, it was really sad.
I remember every argument or hardship, tale of luck and happiness, and exclamation of emotion involved the Catholic Jesus Christ, the luck of the Irish, or both.
"If that landlord thinks I'm payin the rent before he fixes the fuse in the basement, he can kiss my white Irish ass!"
"You pray to St. Anthony and your Irish luck will bring that lost wallet back to you."
"Don't forget, you're married to an Irish woman and you don't want to piss her off, she's smarter than you and you know it, you dumb drunk."
"Are you having another beer?" -- "Yes dear, it's ok I can still drive I'm Irish."
And so on and so forth. Once, when I was well under the drinking age, I was told that if I was a real Irish woman when I grew up, I would love Irish whiskey. Well Mom, you were right. Too bad Jameson is so effing expensive.
Every year my Nana and her husband and so many of our family members would help out with the St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee. (I want to say it was planned by the Teamsters, or the Teamsters were/are involved, but I don't want to misprint information this is just from my childhood perceptions and that my uncle worked for them.) I would stand outside and some years it was nice weather, while other years it was freezing. There's a picture of my mom and a couple of us kids sitting behind the judge's table watching the show, Our apartment was right off of Park Avenue in Worcester, which was so lucky because we could walk one block to watch the parade. My cousin Ronnie and I would wave to the people on the floats, and beg them to throw us candies. I would beat up whatever little flag-clad 4 year old that tried to take those soft-filled strawberry-shaped penny candies from the sidewalk before I got there. I still say they're my favorite. And yes, I'm aware they can rip your fillings out and they cost mere pennies.
The fall of 2010 when I went to Dublin and took a tour through the countryside, I was so happy I can't even express it into words without taking up ten more paragraphs. I "shook the hand" of a crusade soldier and had massive luck for at least a week, (heck, maybe I'm still getting that luck) I toured the Jameson factory, I met some Americans here and there when I was missing home and my family that couldn't be in Dublin with me, I saw the Book of Kells and went to St. Patrick's Church and said a little prayer at both places, posed with the infamous Molly Malone, drank a Guinness at the oldest pub in Dublin, gushed over the green pastures in the countryside, and so on and so on.
St. Patrick's Day might just be an excuse to drink for some people, but to me, or at least to the kid version of me, it means a whole world of things. Who our family was, where our blood came from, the traditions of a country passed on through generations and being carried on in another country, it's all sort of a beautiful idea when you forget about the beer chugging contest. I love my family, and I love our background, and I love Ireland and the Boston version of being Irish. Just the sound of Irish music makes my heart and soul cry and sing at the same time. That's love.
Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone, I hope it's really lucky and fun for all of you. Here's an Irish blessing that you all might know but I truly do mean it:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
I want to add a small note here that my Nana's soon to be ex husband whom I don't mention very often and don't like to name on my blog, truly influenced a lot of my love for our background and being a Massachusetts Irish Catholic. Even though we don't speak anymore, this time of year is a little bit hard because he used to be such a huge part of all of us getting together. We don't wish to have him in our lives anymore, but I'll be drinking a whiskey to him this year in hopes that he's doing well.