Thursday, March 17, 2016

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit!

Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit!'s-Day-in-Gaelic

Well, I wrote this blog entry years ago, and just figured it was as appropriate now, for St. Patrick's Day 2016.

So, I have gotten the chance to enjoy it, and here's hoping that you do, too! May the luck of the Irish be with you on this day!

I was about to post something, a bitching session for all intents and purposes, that I just finished writing. But then it occurred to me that it is St. Patrick's Day, and that I should do something with this as the theme. Having spent the time writing that other thing, however, I did not have the time, or energy, to start from scratch. So, I went back, and decided to go ahead and copy and paste what I wrote last year for this day, in recognition of this holiday, and the enchanted Emerald Isle in general! Enjoy, and may the luck of the Irish be with you on this Sain' Paddy's Day!

So, another St. Patrick's Day has passed. A day to celebrate Irish heritage, something that the author of this piece does not actually have, but still nonetheless honors in his own small way each year.
Usually, my mom will make her once a year Irish dish of corned beef and cabbage, potatoes, carrots. We try to remember to wear green. I got myself a green bagel, and maybe would have gotten myself a green beer, if I had not been working. I have had one or two in my day, but not excessively or anything like that.
Mostly, it is in recognition of a country that is often viewed in almost magical terms. It really has a fascinating culture and history, and there is a certain lore about the place that is hard to dismiss.
I have never been there, but would love to go someday. A land of evidently numerous shades of green that you can really appreciate best as you are flying over it, from what I have heard, thus justifying it's nickname as "The Emerald Island". It is also a land of country fields spotted with the occasional cottage, some charming villages, old castles and ruins of castles, often covered in moss. It is a country of rich traditions and folklore, of music. Ireland is a land of ancient traditions dating back to the druids, to the Celts. It did more than any of the other nations in the British Isles of preserving their past culture and language, although it has not been easy. Gaelic is an official language, but it pales in comparison with English, spoken only by a tiny minority of the population. Still, efforts have been made, and are still being made, to keep it active, and these have been met with some measure of success, at that.
The history of Ireland has always been fascinating as well, if steeped in tragedy. It seems that it is dominated by stories of wars of conquest, of periodic famines, sometimes of epic proportions (a large part of the reason why there are so many people of Irish heritage in countries like the United States and Canada), and of crushing poverty (just read some of Frank McCourt's works, for example).
St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, himself famously drove out all of the snakes from the Emerald Isle, and used the shamrock as a symbol that has now largely come to represent Ireland itself. These are not the only legends surrounding him, of course, but they are among the most famous, to be sure. They are the ones that people seem most familiar with.
Ireland has changed a great deal over the years. Dublin is a growing city, and very diverse. Like almost every western European nation, it has been greatly changed by immigration. Many Eastern Europeans have found a comfortable abode upon Irish shores, and the capital city is a huge reflection of that. It is supposed to be a very young city, where everything is new, in a land of ancient traditions and cultures. It is rather ironic.
What is also ironic is that this tiny island remains a symbol of division. Northern Ireland remains predominately Protestant, although it is hardly a wide majority. Yet, the society there remains often strictly divided, and thus, filled with tensions. A lot of people forget, but in the days just before September 11th, when the terrorist attacks would obviously dominate international headlines for a good long while, the international news that was gaining the most attention prior to that came from northern Ireland, when attempts to integrate Catholics and Protestants into the same schools resulted in extreme violence and further division, and were compared with the violence and ugly scenes in the days of legalized segregation in the Jim Crow South, back in the fifties and early sixties. Nor is the controversy restricted to Ireland or Northern Ireland, for that matter. Every now and then, you will still see a 26+6= 1 bumper sticker, and there still exists many anti-British sentiments regarding this issue in particular. Proof that the charm that marks Ireland and it's traditional cultures does not make it immune from modern day political realities, ugly as they may be.
Ireland has punched harder than it's weight in terms of the impact on the world that this relatively tiny island nation has had. A huge portion of Americans, for one, can trace their heritage to the Irish, almost all of whom made their escape from the crushing poverty found in the place at the time. The United States had it's Irish Catholic President in John F. Kennedy, one of the most admired and famous of the Presidents. Irish musicians have enjoyed considerable success the world over, including Sinead O'Connor and, most obviously, U2. It is a land that produced some prominent literary figures, including the giant figure of James Joyce, especially.
So, St. Patrick's Day is over, at least for another year. Many are those who look forward to this traditional drinking holiday, whether they are, in fact, Irish or not. A few years ago, I saw in an Irish pub in WarwickNew York, a countdown clock. This was not for a New Year, in anticipation of some other momentous occasion. It was for the next St. Patrick's Day. I guess it's time to set the clock and begin the countdown all over again, right?

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