Thursday, March 17, 2011

Top o' the Mornin' To Ye!

Sure and another St. Paddy's Day has come around, bringing a rush of verdant colouring to the workplace and schoolyard, and a drop of food colouring to whatever the sassenach's idea of beer might be (as opposed to Guinness).  It's a jovial holiday named for St. Patrick as the patron saint of the Emerald Isle, but oriented around the Irish qualities of laughter, song and fellowship.  And, yes, I suppose beer as well.  (Speaking of which, I was stunned and maybe just a little delighted to see how many mugs of beer there were on the sheet of St. Patrick's Day window clings Audrey had bought for decorations when she still ran the dayhome.  I don't think too many other holidays can make that association.)

Growing up, we were always more proud of being Canadians first and foremost, which is how it should be, and also of my mother and I being Newfoundlanders.  Our Irish heritage was something that was often taken for granted until I glommed onto it as a young adult and became positively fervent about it.  And why not?

To be sure, I've never been to Ireland, and I don't know as much about its history or its culture as I might like, but I've found a resonance in the lilt of its language and music, and a familiarity in other elements as well, from spirituality to spirits.  I've found a people who share my wanton sentimentality, and who often possess an easygoing nature that belies a potential temper.  I want the girls to be aware of and grateful for their roots in Erin, (and in Holland on their mother's side as well, although, let's face it: the Micks have all but cornered the market on nationally geared festivities now, haven't they?) and to have an appreciation for that part of their ancestry.

For a country that has long been defined by bouts of horrifically misguided nationalistic tendencies and sectarian violence, there's more than enough positive qualities to compensate: the love of fellowship, the appreciation of songs and work, a willingness to stand up for what's right, an intrinsic hatred of injustice. The saying that on St. Patrick's Day there are two kinds of people: those that are Irish and those that wish they were may be a slight exaggeration, but who hasn't wished for the gift of Irish Diplomacy: the ability to tell a man to go to hell in such a way as he looks forward to the trip?  What non-believer hasn't smiled at the misdirected blessing that he should be in haven half an hour before the Devil knows he's dead?  Even as a spectator, who hasn't nodded at G.K. Chesterton's words:
For the great Gaels of Ireland
Are the race that God made mad
For all their wars are merry
And all their songs are sad
Hal Boyle said it best in "What Is It To Be Irish?"  when he says that on St. Patrick's Day, to be Irish "is to know more glory, adventure, magic, victory, exultation, gratitude, and gladness than any other man can experience in a lifetime."

This St. Patrick's Day, I invite all of you to claim as much of the above as you are able, being sure to share it with everyone you come across.  Today, there is room enough for all who want to, to be Irish.


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