St. Patrick’s Day

I have a strange relationship with this day.

It was a big deal to me as a kid. I suppose it’s because it was a big deal to my father.

He grew up in NYC, in Yorkville, but as a kid his family moved to Jersey (where I was born).

As far as I can tell, his family has been here for generations with no solid link to the Auld Sod outside of the Mc in our names and our Catholicism. For Irish-Americans, the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day was a cultural identifier in the melting pot that was, and still is, NYC.

I got my love of traditional Irish music and Irish folk from my father’s old vinyl collection. Every year, he’d fly a green “Erin Go Bragh” flag outside of the house and break out the Irish albums. The Chieftains, The Clancy Brothers, The Wolfe Tones. We’d eat corned beef and cabbage. One year, he took my brother and I out of school so we could go to the big St. Patrick’s Day parade in NYC with him and his mother.

These made an indelible mark upon me. Irishness was something to be celebrated.

Later, when I first read about Wicca…one of the things that really interested me about Paganism was Wicca’s purported link to being the ancient religion of the British Isles. (Which is, of course, totally untrue. It’s younger than my father.)

For a while, I fancied myself a “Celtic Pagan”. I went to rituals with a medallion of a Celtic knot. I listened to Enya, Clannad, the Cranberries, and Sinead O’Connor, and idealized Ireland.

That was until I actually went to Ireland twenty years ago on a three-week pilgrimage. It wasn’t until then that I realized how not-Irish I was. I was American. There wasn’t anything inherently bad about that. Just that I wasn’t Irish.

Since then, it’s been difficult for me to celebrate “Irishness”. I still have a love for the old rebel songs and the occasional pint of Guinness. But these days, St. Patrick’s Day is more associated with trying to avoid dealing with drunks than with wearing green.






~ by R.M. McGrath on 03/17/2017.

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