Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Well, St. Patty’s Day has come again, and with it our celebration of everything Irish. Since half my family comes from one part of Ireland or another I though I’d share some gems of Irish-ness to make your own St. Patrick’s Day more memorable. Because after all, today we’re all Irish!

Now if you want to actually speak Irish, let me tell you that the Irish Gaelic can befuddle most English-speakers as its Celtic pronunciations differ widely from most other Indo-European languages. However, for today I’ll give you a real easy one. Erin go Bragh! It commonly means “Ireland forever,” and if you say this to most any Irish or even Irish-Americans today you’re likely to generate a little smile of genuine surprise and glee. Try it out for yourself, it rolls off the tongue nicely.

Many things come to people’s minds when they think of Ireland this day. Some think of St. Patrick and snakes while others picture fields full of clover and cows, but trust me, there’s a lot more to celebrate. Irish peoples have lived on their famed Emerald Isle since before the end of the last Ice Age, and recent genetic studies have shown that the Irish are descendants of the original inhabitants of Europe, sharing genomes with a few other isolated populations that trace their genetic line all the way back to the Neolithic. So with more than 10,000 years of history behind them you can’t blame the Irish for developing their own peculiarities.

Some things I particularly enjoy about Irish culture are their food, drink, and books. More writers have come from Ireland than one might expect for an island the size of Maine, and yet they have had a disproportionally large literary impact on Western civilization despite this. Poets such as Yeats, Heaney, and Kavanagh. Playwrights like Singe, Shaw, Goldsmith, O’Casey, and Beckett. Novelists including Joyce, Wilde, and Swift. Short-story authors from O’Flaherty to O’Conner. Historical and cultural writers from Lady Gregory to Edmund Burke. The list goes on and on.

Of course, their stews, Irish breads, and their love of every meat makes Irish food a comfort that even Hobbits would find filling and satisfying. And then there’s Guinness. Ah, the stout. As the Irish themselves put it, on the eight and glorious day of creation in the Bible, God did indeed create beer…to keep the Irish from conquering the world. And it has dutifully served its purpose ever since.

So whether you share some corned beef and cabbage with family this evening, or hit up the local pub with some of your friends, or simply indulge in a few Irish books whilst sipping some good strong tea, remember that being Irish is not a birthright, but rather a state of mind. Not something that is easily described, but instead must be experienced first-hand. So go out and enjoy the day, sport your green attire with pride, and don’t forget to greet those you meet with a hearty Erin go Bragh!