Saturday, April 21, 2012

St. Patricks Day 2012

“Everyone’s Irish on St. Paddy’s Day”.  Some people love this saying and some people hate it.  Some of the not so Irish or partly Irish like myself love it because it gives them an opportunity to celebrate, whether it be by gathering together with family at grandma’s or with friends at the pub.  It may be that the one’s that despise the phrase aren’t Irish and therefore they don’t find that they have a reason to celebrate it.  I’ve heard people in this bracket complain that people say they’re Irish on St. Patrick’s Day just for another reason to get drunk.  The others that I could see disliking the above mentioned expression are the actual 100% Irish who might see the current and sometimes belligerent interpretation of their national holiday as an attack on their culture.  While perusing facebook on the greenest day of the year I noticed that a friend of mine, whom I respect, posted a comment that showed his discontent of the holiday.  His comment made me think and examine why it is that I celebrate St. Paddy’s Day.  Eventually I’ve determined that the answer to this question more about where I come from than where my great great great grandparents came from.

Corning NY is a small town in upstate New York where workers once immigrated to the area to work in the glass-factory.  Now scientist, engineers and business-men come as all the laborers are now in China.  There is undoubtedly an Irish presence in Corning weather it be in the names of my classmates and friends (O’hare, Stack, O’Laughlin ) but maybe more evident when you see the names of some of the older bars in town (Maleys, Murphys, McKlintock).  When listening to the attendance called out in school you hear some Irish names but it by no means dominates the list like the Italian names do.  Either way, one of the neat things about Corning is that today, like many years ago, you find people from many different backgrounds.  For being a small conservative town a stone’s throw away from the middle of nowhere it does have some surprising diversity.  I suppose a lot of small towns in America is like that.

I first learned about St. Patrick’s Day at home, secondly in the church and lastly in school.  There are two things that I remember most about St. Patrick’s Day celebrations long ago and they have both been present in my last couple of celebrations, the color green and the film Darby O’Gill and the Little People.  That’s right, I didn’t say green beer.  I’m talking long ago when someone, maybe at school, introduced me to one of my all time favorite Disney films.  Check it out if you haven’t yet.  I can’t go on reminiscing about St. Patrick’s Days without mentioning my Great Grandma Mertson who when you walk into her house on the special day it’s like a new green starburst, flavor explosion for your eyes.  On top of that, the traditional corned beef and cabbage is served at her place and it really makes you feel Irish, whether you are or you’re not. 

Finally we get to the part where booze is involved.  I will admit that green beer, Jamison and Irish car bombs took a pretty central role in my St. Patty’s day celebrations of my 20’s but looking back, those were relatively few up until I came to Romania.  In Romania they don’t really celebrate St. Patrick’s Day so the last couple holidays I spent explaining who St. Patrick was to my students then going home to watch Darby O’Gill.  Things are a bit different in Bucharest and this year I was able to have a much more thorough celebration of the Irish holiday.

First off, there are Irish in Bucharest and one of them happens to be my boss.  The Peace Corps Romania St. Patrick’s Day party kicked off the holiday with some old-school Irish tunes playing on the radio, learning to sing one and of course, pin the shamrock on the leprechaun.  Though this last part is probably not traditionally Irish, it was fun and it got people in the spirit of celebrating.  The following day the Irish Embassy scheduled a music event in center of old town featuring an Irish people-pleaser band called the Amazing Apples and a couple of other Flogging-Molly style Romanian bands (literally covering Flogging Molly songs).  After the show, traditionally dressed bagpipers toured old town with a drummer, guitar player and mandolin player.  They played their instruments, sang and danced on the floors of bars throughout old town.  This part of the evening was surely a treat.  Later on my friend Mihaela and I went to an Irish pub we haven’t been to yet to pack into the crowd for an extended evening with the Amazing Apples playing not only Irish tunes but also crowd pleasers like their Lady Gaga/MGMT mash-up.  Even though it wasn’t much like my old-time favorite Corning celebrations of St. Patrick it was still a great time and it did include that good traditional Irish music that you usually hear playing on my computer and ipod during the 5 days leading up to the holiday.

To those who can’t stand the saying “Everybody’s Irish on St. Patty’s Day” my advice to you is to live and let live.  Right, people do use it for an excuse to get drunk sometimes but lets be honest, if St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t an excuse to get drunk something else would be (Friday, happy hour, over the hump, ect.).  Secondly, I believe I read somewhere recently that the Irish are the second largest immigrant group in the United States to the Germans.  Maybe all those people saying that they’re Irish actually are, at least a bit.  What makes the US so unique is that it is a country of immigrants.  Here in Romania we celebrate Romanian holidays where we eat Romanian food dance the traditional Romanian dances and partake in some, at times strange, but interesting Romanian customs that go back centuries.  In the states you find people from all different backgrounds who celebrate in the way their parents taught them which is where they come from and may be quite different from how you were taught to celebrate.  This is one of the beauties of the US.  

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