Sunday, March 21, 2010
This week is when I celebrate what I call an Irish Spring (and I don’t mean the soap.) It is the week of St. Patrick’s Day and the first day of Spring. Even though I am only part Irish I feel a connection to all things Irish this time of year. I honor my ancestors with comments like “Saints be praised” in an Irish brogue I didn’t even know I had (and neither did anyone else.)
My mother’s mother was an O’Reagan. That's where I get my Irish heritage and my red hair (well, that and Miss Clairol.) People often comment on my Irish looks, but sometimes I wonder if they are politely inferring that I seem leprechaun short. Coming from a family where the rest of the members are blonde and German-looking, I don’t think much about being part Irish except on St. Patrick’s Day. I think more about the culture of hard work and integrity they passed on to me. They didn’t run around drinking green beer or telling me to kiss a blarney stone, but Lord knows I could have used it! They were a proud people of humble beginnings who first came to America as migrant farm workers. They dropped the 'O' in O’Reagan to fit in more easily with their newly adopted homeland. They didn't want to call attention to themselves or stand out like newcomers in a crowd of strangers.
I'm not sure how they would have felt about me with all my stories of calamities and my not-so-lucky charms, except I do know they did like to share a good laugh. I hope they would have laughed that I accidentally dyed my hair green and it wasn't even St. Paddy’s Day. They probably would have cried when they heard that as a waitress I once slipped and spilled a perfectly good glass of Irish whiskey down a lady’s back. The Irish I know are lovers of great stories. . . so many stories, so little time.
The real St. Patrick has his own story that has nothing to do with leprechauns or libations. While I'm no Irish historian, here are my favorite parts of St. Patrick's legend: After years of captivity in Ireland, pre-saint Patrick was visited by an angel telling him he would return to Britain. He became a priest and had another vision that he was to “become the voice of the Irish” by returning to Ireland to Christianize the pagan natives. He used the three-leaf shamrock to illustrate the Holy Trinity as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The “wearing of the green” shamrock became a symbol of faith. He became the patron saint of the Irish and now his day is a time to celebrate Irish heritage all over the world.
The craziness associated with St. Patrick’s Day is all in good fun. Traditions sprang up of drinking beer, the pinching of anyone not wearing the signature color green and—my personal favorite—the slogan, “Kiss Me, I’m Irish.” Silly traditions aside, I can never look at a shamrock the same way again. It's more than just a lucky charm, it's a symbol of faith. St. Patrick dedicated his life to serving God. As a fitting tribute, I raise a symbolic glass of green beer to toast St. Patrick for being a man of faith and and a deserving saint of a noble people.
P.S. Since I am also part German, I'm campaigning for a day to celebrate the slogan, “Kiss Me, I’m German."
—Bernice Lori O’Reagan Broyles (BLOB), LOL