Tomorrow is a day so special to the Diaspora of Ireland, that we celebrate it as exuberantly as our Irish brothers and sisters. Here in the U.S.A. even those with not even the tiniest drop of Irish blood claim the status of Irish-for-a-day and celebrate with the most Irish amongst us. We celebrate with what we think of as the quintessential Irish meal: corned beef and cabbage, root vegetables, and soda bread…and don’t forget the Guinness! In cities like Cleveland, New York and Chicago there is a big parade. In Chicago, they dye the river green. I currently live in a large metropolitan area with much Irish pride…but they hold their parade the Sunday prior to St. Patrick’s day, which this year was six days early…I’ve never understood this…you have to celebrate on the actual day!
Last year on St. Patrick’s Day, I was in Shanghai in an Irish bar. Now, I’m not much of a public partier, so I can think of only one other time when I was out at a bar on St. Patrick’s Day and that was many years ago. But in China, we traveled with a master beer judge who took it upon himself to find us the micro-breweries hidden in the city. We tried the Boxing Cat Brewery earlier in the trip and ended up at O’Malley’s Irish Pub on St. Patrick’s Day. This was the evening that I learned from my own Master Beer Judge, that Guinness is a low alcohol beer….not intuitive given the rich taste of the stout, but license to have another round!
Some members of our group arrived early enough to secure a table and it was no mean feat to find them by pushing our way through the crowd from the street through the large courtyard and then through the maze of crowded rooms inside the bar. Once we sat down, we jealously guarded our spots! We were also, thanks to my yenta of a boss, trying to fix up “Jesse”, a 26 year old Shanghainese living with her parents (common in this most-expensive of cities) with her counterpart, “Ricky” from a rival company. He was an ambitious 29 year old from a distant town who had his own place in the city. There was much verbal banter between the two, but alas…no permanent match was made that night.
Last year I missed out on making my traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal, so this year I’m stocked-up and ready! The corned beef will go into the slow cooker with all of the corning spices…and later I’ll add turnips, parsnips, and carrots (no potatoes…I’m allergic…hell of a thing for an Irish girl to be!). Near the end, I’ll add the cabbage. Meanwhile, I’ll make the soda bread. I don’t know why I only make it once a year, it is such a simple bread, and it is so delicious!
As we think about the meaning of St. Patrick’s Day, perhaps a more traditional schedule would include Mass and solemn thoughts about the amazing work that St. Patrick accomplished in his lifetime. One of my favorite books is How the Irish Saved Civilization. It gave me just one more reason to be glad of my Irish heritage. Under Patrick’s watch, many books were copied and therefore saved from oblivion by first generation literates and many, many churches were founded all over Europe to light the way out of Medieval times. St. Patrick went from slave to savior…quite an inspiration!
Then, there are the other symbols of St. Patrick’s Day including the elusive Leprechaun and the four leaf clover…my children, when asked about leprechauns, start in with the jingle from lucky charms cereal…oh my, maybe I’m doing a poor job of teaching my children about their heritage!
Find the Joy in the Journey and:
May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.