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By Mel White 

Goin' green (at least for a day)

On the Bright Side

 

March 16, 2019

Mel White

As the granddaughter of Josephine Larimer, who was, coincidently, born Josephine O'Neil on March 17, 1898 – and who loved a good ol' Irish birthday celebration for the whole month of March -- I just cannot let an important holiday like St. Patrick's Day go by without a mention.

OK, maybe it isn't the same as say, Christmas or the fourth of July, but all over the world people are Irish for at least the day on March 17 and celebrate with all things Irish, including shamrocks, leprechauns, parades, music and dance, and the color green. In March all across the country beverages (in particularly, beer) are turned green, streets are painted green and rivers run with green waters.

Oddly enough, while St. Patrick's Day was declared a religious holiday in the early 1700s (the original saint died circa 461 AD), it was the Irish in America who made it such a big and raucous holiday – the first St. Patrick's Day parade was held in New York City in 1766.

Another little oddity is that the color most associated with St. Patrick (who it was reported banished the snakes out of Ireland and brought Christianity to the country) was blue. In ancient Ireland, however, the green shamrock (also known as "seamroy" by the Celts), was a sacred plant that symbolized the rebirth of spring. Even as far back as the 1600s, the shamrock had become a symbol of Irish nationalism; the people had begun to wear the shamrock as a symbol of their pride in their heritage and their displeasure with English rule.

Today in Ireland people tend to wear a small bunch of Shamrocks on their right breast rather than wear green clothing. The Shamrocks are blessed at religious ceremonies all over Ireland by local priests or bishops; the shamrock has become a tradition to celebrate St. Patrick, but it was once again the Irish Americans who really got gung-ho about wearing green, and now (again, all over the world) people dress in all green – or a green shirt, or a green hat, or wearing green glasses or shoes, or green paint on their faces...in addition to the Shamrock.

The traditional meal of corned beef and cabbage is also a bit of an Irish American twist. A staple of Irish cuisine, cabbage mixed with Irish bacon was a popular holiday dinner in Ireland and relatively lately became associated with St. Patrick's Day, but it was Irish immigrants living on New York City's Lower East Side who substituted corned beef for their traditional dish of Irish bacon to save money (they learned this trick from their Jewish neighbors).

Drinking green beer is also a big part of St. Patrick's Day, again thanks to our Irish American ancestors. In Ireland, the day was (and still is) a holy day and in fact, most pubs were closed on March 17. While Americans were drinking beer (both green and gold and brown) on the holiday, it wasn't until 1970 that Irish law even permitted pubs to be open on the day.

Things change, lots of holidays evolve from their origins to the way we celebrate today, and St. Paddy's Day is no exception – pretty much all over our planet, the world becomes Irish for a day and turns green.

So I'll see you on this upcoming green Sunday, and offer this parting thought for this year's St. Patrick's Day:

"May the luck of the Irish

Lead to happiest heights

And the highway you travel

Be lined with green lights.

Wherever you go and whatever you do,

May the luck of the Irish be there with you."

© Marilda Mel White. Mel is a local photographer and writer; she’s 100 per cent Irish on March 17 and probably about 10% the other days of the year. She welcomes your comments at morningland@msn.com.

 
 

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