Until I did research on Ancestry.com, I never knew or believed I had any Irish blood in me. My family’s name is out of the middle of England, and actually, when you push it back a bit earlier, they were French who came to visit England with William the Conqueror, and decided to stay and take somebody’s lands away from them. Nice story. However, as it happens, people move or take vacations and decide to stay, and so somehow, probably through my grandmother’s family, somebody ended up in Ireland, and probably captivated by the lilt of a pretty Irish girl’s voice, stayed and created the Irish limb of my family tree.
It doesn’t matter, of course, since the saying is that EVERYONE is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. I’m not sure that really includes everyone, so much as it waters down the list of folks who truly should commemorate the day.
Now, we don’t know when St. Patrick was born, but the history says his actual name was Maewyn Succat, and was kidnapped as a 16-year old and taken from England to Ireland. He eventually escaped, and then returned as a priest to bring Christianity to the island. The whole business about chasing the snakes out of Ireland? Well, truth be told, there never were snakes there – most likely, the snakes were a metaphor for the Druids, part of the ancient nature religion that went away with the coming of Roman Catholicism.
It was often the case that in history, the date of someone’s birth was rarely noted; instead, if someone were of historical significance, his or her date of death was usually remembered. So, St. Patrick’s Day? Well, we celebrate the guy’s death. And by the way, “Patrick” is an Irish adaptation of the Latin “patricius,” which means “father.” Actually, even though he died in 460ad, his “day” was recognized until probably the mid – 1500s. Since then, it was always a religious holiday – kind of a break in the Lenten fast, which made it a day of obligation to attend mass, and then they would eat the feat of bacon and cabbage. No not corned beef – that came after the immigrants traveled over to America.
In fact, most of the “stuff” of St. Patrick’s Day is more American than Irish. In Ireland, it wasn’t until the 1960s when bars could be open – it was meant to be a family day and a heritage day. There was no school, and the banks and most businesses were closed as well.
We managed to adjust things a bit here in the States. Actually, St. Patrick’s true color is blue, but again, when folks came over, they wanted to show their national loyalty to their homeland, and to St. Patrick’s Day was the time for the wearin’ of the green. It also apparently makes you invisible to leprechauns.
You might guess that the bars in America were indeed open on St. Patrick’s Day all along, and with it, a rather pernicious tradition of public drunkenness and misbehavior. That’s a shame, but I don’t blame it on the Irish, but instead, all those folks who don’t wish to control their own behaviors.
One last thing: the shamrock, which is far different than a four-leaf clover. The shamrock is a small white clover that always has three leaves, which tradition says is the way that Patrick was able to explain the Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
So – my favorite part about the day are the jokes. Like, “What is green and sits on your back porch? Patty O’Furniture…” Or what happens when a leprechaun falls in the ocean? He gets wet. Or, when you cross Christmas with St. Patrick’s day, you get St. O’Clause… or, if you find a horseshoe in Ireland, what it means is that a horse lost its shoe… an Irishman’s vacation home? A lepre-condo. What did the baby leprechaun find at the end of the rainbow? A potty of gold…
And one for this time in our lives – I saw a button that read, “Kiss me! I’m Irish! And vaccinated!”
I hope your day is fun and enjoyable, and always safe, and that in the midst of the Irish-ness, you might also intend to thank God for the gift of St. Patrick and his work of sharing the faith to an entire people. Well done, Patrick…
Word for the day: whemmle. Pronounced WHEM-ul. It’s actually a word from Northern England or Scotland, where words seems to appear out of nowhere. To “whemmle” something is to turn it upside down while you are looking for something else, or to use it as a lid of sorts. It also means to engulf or submerge something. “After being whemmled, the boat sank to the bottom.”
But you hear the hint of a different word in there, don’t you? It’s one that we typically use today, with a small addition. The word also has morphed into “whelm,” which again means to surge over or flip something or someone off their feet. Except today we tend to put a really unnecessary prefix to it, and say that we, or something is “over-whelmed,” when we actually could say that we are simply whelmed… but then probably someone hearing it would wonder why we didn’t use the whole word…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.