Everyone knows (well, those who can keep track of holidays at least. My ex-husband never knew when Halloween was. Surprised him every year. But anyway…) March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day, and the stores are full of all sorts of ridiculous green things, kind of like Mardi Gras with nothing but green. Chicago dyes its river green for the occasion, green beer gets served in pseudo-Irish pubs (also known as ‘plastic Paddies’) in the U.S. (seriously, *blech*), New York holds its famous parade and everyone wears green and gets to pretend they’re Irish for the day. I understand none of this nonsense used to go on in Ireland. It was a holy day of obligation when Catholics attended Mass, and would have a special family meal, so it was more like Easter or Christmas than a drunken street party. They started holding parades to appease the visiting Americans who didn’t understand why there were no parades.
As a person of Irish descent, I can appreciate the celebration of Ireland, which is pretty much what it’s morphed into over the years, but as a Pagan, I gotta say I am not so taken with what Patrick did to Ireland. So I’m doing things a little differently this year. There will be no St. Patrick’s Day post. I will instead celebrate all things Irish as often as I can.
March is designated “Irish History Month” in Britain, with the intention of promoting “a greater understanding of Ireland and the Irish, to value the many positive contributions that Irish people have made to life in Britain, and to introduce new audiences to the vibrancy of Irish arts and culture.”
Over here, we have the obscure and little-known Irish-American Heritage Month. The month of March is dedicated to appreciating the contributions of Irish-Americans. Apparently George H.W. Bush made the first designation in 1991, and it has been so decreed every year since, to very little fanfare.
Little known fact: The Scottish Highlands were originally settled by Irish. The old Latin name for Ireland was ‘Scotia’, and, you guessed it, gave us “Scotland.” Which goes to show the Romans were well aware of Ireland, so why they never got around to invading/settling there is anyone’s guess.
If you’re Irish, celebrate your heritage this month. If you’re not, or aren’t sure, I’m sure the Irish will adopt you. They absorbed most of the invaders (Vikings, Normans).
This here video has it all: The Chieftains, Carlos Nuñez, tin whistles, fiddling, uillean pipes, the Galician gaeta (another form of bagpipes, also pumped by elbow), and some amazing step dancing. As near as I can figure out, this was a televised show called Concertos das Estrelas from 2004. Nuñez is from Galicia, a Celtic region in the northwest corner of Spain (not to be confused with the Eastern European Galicia, a region on the east side of the Carpathian mountains). He’s the younger guy playing the penny whistle in the beginning with Paddy Moloney of the Chieftains, and later we see each of them playing pipes: Carlos on the gaeta, and Paddy with the Irish uillean pipes. Don’t miss the step dancers about 4 1/2 minutes in.
And as Frank Delaney tweeted out last St. Patrick’s Day, “Getting drunk doesn’t mean you’re Irish; it means you’re drunk.”
Éirinn go Brách!