THE CLADDAGH - THE TRADITIONAL IRISH SYMBOL FOR
FRIENDSHIP (HANDS), LOVE (HEART) AND LOYALTY (CROWN)
I have mixed feelings about this, being rather bitter that I missed out on celebrating my Irish heritage from childhood on, as I was able celebrate my Scottish and especially, Norwegian heritages. I have always FELT Irish, if that makes any sense. When I was a kid I even fibbed about being Irish on St. Patrick's Day. For years after I grew up, I wore an "Irish At Heart" pin. When I was researching the Scottish Munro clan, I discovered that the Munros may have come from Ireland. "There's the connection! I am validated!", I thought. Now that I know without a doubt that I am one quarter Irish, I feel that I should celebrate the day in some way.
However, I didn't wish to drink green beer, wear a stupid plastic green hat, and go around spouting "Sure and Begorrah" and "Erin Go Bragh." Neither my husband and I are into corned beef and cabbage. There are no Irish parades in this primarily German city.Thanks to my Irish-by-marriage niece Lisa Kelly, who has sent me Saint Patrick's Day boxes for years, I have a large collection of Irish decorations. However, I didn't put them up this year. (Lisa is incredible. Only she would think to send me a pair of her daughter's Irish dance shoes. Such a personal and authentic touch to add to an Irish vignette!)
I don't like the images of Irish people as drunks and Paddys. I don't like silly little leprechauns and pots o'gold. I'm not good at blarney and hopefully I'm not too maudlin.
I did wear green, even though I was seen by only two other people, who were working overtime like me. I also pinned on my four Irish pins: a shamrock, two claddaghs and an Irish angel holding a shamrock (all four are small, so I pin them on in a diamond pattern to make a bigger impact).
After work I brought out my collection of St. Patrick's Day cards to peruse. They are part of my collection of holiday cards from the Golden Age of Postcards from the turn of the century to the 1930s. I am lucky to have some Ellen Clapsaddle cards, as they are highly valued.
But what else could I do? I searched some websites about St. Patrick's Day celebrations and came up with only one that spoke to me. If I lived in a large city, I would have leaped at the first suggestion: to attend a play by an Irish playwright, like John Millington Synge. However, the next suggestion was appealing: have a glass of Irish whiskey, sit by a fire, and read some good Irish stories, poetry and ballads.
Thanks to Lisa, I have just the book: "Ireland in Poetry", edited by Charles Sullivan. It's a collection of poems by Irish poets, dating from the Celts to modern-day writers. They are accompanied by a selection of drawings, paintings, sculptures and photographs by Irish artists.
William Butler Yeats once wrote,"Wherever green is worn, a terrible beauty is born." Ireland's troubled history is full of terrible beauty and terrible tragedy. What is admirable about this book, the jacket says, is that it covers both sides - that of the green (the Republic of Ireland) and the orange (Northern Ireland), the Catholics and the Prods (Protestants).
I don't have any Irish whiskey, and probably wouldn't like it if I did, but I am going to have a glass - or two at the most - of Black Velvet, a nice Canadian whiskey. Better than a couple of pitchers of beer any day, and a much better way to spend a St. Patrick's day evening. I will read my book, sip my whiskey and raise my glass and say Slainte! (rather than the skoal that I was brought up to say). I will toast all the Codys I have never met, and never will.
And I will save my celebrating for a true Celtic holiday like Alban Eiler, Beltane or Samhain.
Meanwhile, for all of you, an Irish poem with which I was already familiar (see below), and this greeting: "Beannachtai La Fheile Padraig Duit" (In Gaelic: Blessings of Saint Patrick's Day to you All)
Sir Frederick Burton
THE LAKE ISLE OF INNISFREE
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, and a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all aglimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of linnet's wings
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)