If you ever have the urge to buy and/or wear a “Kiss Me I’m Irish” shirt, please do not. Trust me, I promise you will be able to accurately celebrate this St. Patrick’s Day without any need for one.
I moved to Ireland when I was four years old. As the youngest of seven, most of our family traditions for St. Patrick’s Day had already been established. Classic practices like putting green food dye in our milk, frantically searching for four-leafed clovers and fashioning make-shift bishop hats with colored card-stock were passed down to me by my older siblings.
When we moved to Ireland, however, things changed. It was so much easier to find four-leafed clovers, and St. Patrick’s Day became so much more than the only real excuse to eat corned beef.
We lived twenty minutes outside of a little town named Dingle. Every year, Dingle would put on a St. Patrick’s Day parade, complete with bagpipes, parade floats with the town’s favorite member’s throwing candy and the local children’s marching band, in which my brother, sister and I all played various instruments.
Can I say I miss marching around, in the drizzling rain or the blazing sun, in a Kerry green blazer with shoulder pads and big gold buttons, lugging a heavy accordion, without sounding crazy? Probably not, but the memory of those celebrations are some of the happiest memories of my childhood.
Further fond memories include stopping at our parish, St. Mary’s, and getting a blessing from Fr. Loony, and ending the day with a feast of chicken nuggets and fries with a bunch of Irish kids who still managed to have plenty of energy despite the busy day.
But the greatest aspects of those days were celebrating them with my family. My brother, sister and I had prepared for months with our band. Our friends and family were in all the crowds as we marched past, cheering loudly. And it also made sure we never forgot what we actually were celebrating — community.
That was a characteristic of Ireland even before St. Patrick converted everyone, yet the added aspects of the Catholic faith could only strengthen it. The fact that we started our morning with a Rosary before loading into our green van to drive into town could only make the day better.
Now, am I suggesting that the University of Dallas stock up on Kerry green jackets and accordions and gather together to march around the tower a few times before grabbing some nuggets from the Caf? Not directly, though I am not denying it could be fun.
No, what I am suggesting is that we don’t use a holiday that was established to thank a great saint who introduced an entire country to salvation as an excuse for anything that could hurt that concept. God bless you all, and have a good St. Patrick’s.