Can you feel it in the air?
Close your eyes, and free your mind. Take a deep breath and focus not on what you can hear and smell, but rather on what you can sense deep in your bones. There’s a thickness in the air, but it’s not humidity or that impending sense of doom that grabs us all at times — no, it’s something more optimistic, more full of hope and optimism.
Yup. It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day.
I’m shaking I’m so excited. For one day a year, I go from tension-filled newspaper editor to Guinness-filled child of Ireland. Oh, there are certainly other days of the year that fill the soul with joy, but they usually come with some sort of baggage — be it travel stresses, shopping, pesky resolutions that are made with a wink and a grin, what have you. St. Patrick’s Day comes with, well, joy.
For Irish-Americans in the States, the day is not only about pride in heritage — it’s a day of inclusion. Yes, it’s an Irish holiday by nature, but it’s also a day when the Irish ask all to be involved in the merriment, and enjoy nothing more than sharing the unadulterated celebration with everybody. Yes, we are a nation built on respecting different cultures, religions and ethnicities, but for one day, we’re all Irish.
And that’s not so bad.
So, what’s the attraction, besides the unofficial adoption of all people into the Irish culture? Is it the sight of so many people wearing green? Probably not so much. Yes, it’s a symbol of the Catholic contribution to the Irish flag, but think about it — is it the sight of people wearing red, white and blue clothes that makes July 4th the day that it is? While it absolutely adds to the flavor of the day, it is most certainly not the core of the collective enthusiasm enjoyed by so many.
Is it the religious celebration of St. Patrick — the man who explained the Holy Trinity with the visual aid of a three-leafed clover and spread Catholicism throughout the Emerald Isle? I’d like to say that’s the reason, and at some point it was, but the day has budded into something else over time.
Is it, as many would assume, the massive intake of alcohol throughout the world? Well, there is certainly a lot of alcohol consumed on New Year’s Eve and Super Bowl Sunday, so it’s not like St. Patrick’s Day has the market cornered on booze.
The music? The corned beef and cabbage? The glowing lights that so many people wear around their necks in celebration? The “Kiss me I’m Irish” buttons?
Actually, now that I’m actively listing all these things, maybe we’ve stumbled onto something. While it may not be any one of these items we’ve discussed, it’s entirely possible that it’s indeed the combination of all these elements that makes St. Patrick’s Day in this nation the event that it is.
Look, it’s different here than it is in Ireland. St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland indeed starts with Mass that morning (though there is some controversy this year because it falls during Holy Week, so the masses are being held on different days in some areas), there’s not a mass showing of green clothing and it’s hard to find a piece of corned beef over there — though lamb stew and ham and cabbage meals are pretty big. Also, “Danny Boy” is considered a sad funeral song in Ireland, and not likely played every 17 seconds on St. Patrick’s Day, as it often is in the States.
But, to me, that’s the charm.
Irish-Americans have developed their own methods of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in this country. The green developed over the years as a way of showing pride in culture, and the over-the-top costumes basically do the same thing. It’s a way of proudly displaying that Irish heritage in our past, but one that’s open to people of all backgrounds to partake.
I love it. I love the music, the clothes, the drinks and the food. I love seeing my friend Declan McNamee dressed as a leprechaun right down to the dyed hair, and I love when my friend Kevin Heslin makes it a point to seek me out every year to celebrate, no matter how far away we live from each other. I love cozy Savannah, Ga., having one of the greatest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the world, and I love the memory of my father one year coming home “from work” with a shamrock painted on his forehead and a blinking green tie half undone around his neck.
Have I mentioned that I love St. Patrick’s Day?
So, enjoy yourself this St. Patrick’s Day. Wear your green, wolf down some corned beef and cabbage, tip back a few pints and sing until you’re hoarse. Pinch those not in the spirit, tell tall tales and regale in a tradition that is uniquely Irish-American in nature.
Me? I’ll be enjoying that day with some friends, like every other year. We’ll probably play some cards, listen to some traditional and non-traditional Irish music and put down enough Irish Car Bomb drinks to last us until ...
But I digress.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Erin Go Bragh!