It’s the part of me that’s poetic, and funny, and melancholy, and believes in ghosts and loves a good beer.
I mean, how could I doubt my Irish genes? Just have a peek at my Things I Like Best list:
Favourite words: shite and eijit
Favourite band: U2
I give an Honourable Mention to Colin Farrell, just because, well, he’s Colin.
I know, I know, lots of people want to be Irish. I’ve heard some Irish refer to these pretenders as “Plastic Paddies”. An old friend of mine used to reserve special derision for people who tried to get on his good side by mentioning their Irish connections. Usually, he’d make a wry joke which might escalate into some outright insults, particularly if the words Paddy or Blarney were used.
But who could blame anyone for wanting to be Irish — and isn’t imitation the sincerest form of flattery? I never met anyone who wants to pretend to be Canadian unless it is Americans with Canadian flags sewn on their backpacks, trekking through Europe, trying to say “eh” the right way.
There really is something endlessly seductive about the Irish spirit. How can you not love the only country in the world where windmills turn clockwise instead of counterclockwise? Where serious problems are known as “bad turns”? Where drinks like Guinness and Bailey’s Irish Cream are born, and bands like The Pogues took root?
And then there’s the lyrically lilting Irish accent that always makes it sound like they are quoting poetry even when they are just talking about what’s for dinner.
So it is that I join millions around the world in celebrating St. Patrick’s Day on March 17, one of the only national public holidays to have been adopted globally.
In my city of Victoria, we might wear a bit of green for luck and drink green beer (don’t let them tell you the colour doesn’t affect the taste!). Some U.S. cities have even been known to pour green vegetable dye in their rivers in honour of St. Patrick’s Day. South Korea celebrates this day and so does Argentina. In fact, Argentina’s native son Che Guevara was said to be of Irish decent and even spent some time in Limerick once.
When I was in school, if you didn’t wear green on St. Paddy’s day you risked getting pinched. As a little kid, I thought Ireland was a magical land where wishes came true. I didn’t know then about the British occupation of Northern Ireland, the Troubles, the I.R.A. or Bobby Sands.
Back then, I believed in the Good People (faeries) and leprechauns (I’m still not sure faeries and leprechauns don’t exist!). When rainbows would appear, my brother and I would search for the leprechaun holding our pot of gold at the end of it. We would lie on the lush grass in our grandparents’ yard and search for shamrocks for luck.
I don’t know how the Irish feel about leprechauns. Maybe the same way Canadians feel about our fuzzy mascot, the beaver. We like ’em, but don’t bring the word beaver up too often.
And then there’s St. Patrick himself. I’m was never such a fan of St. Patrick himself who apparently saved the Irish and was sainted for his good works. I mean, what exactly did the Irish need to be saved from? Seems to me they were doing all right before. They say he drove the snakes out of Ireland but I’m of the mind that the so-called snakes were really metaphors for pagans. Besides, Patrick himself was born in Roman Brittan not in Ireland.
Today, I know Ireland is not a myth but maybe we really want it to be. Maybe that’s why we can’t let go of the flights of fancy about this land, despite the hard realities. Somehow, almost against the odds, Ireland retains a magical mythology in the popular imagination, not an easy thing to do in this day and age where we are constantly deconstructing the positive.
I’ve never been to Ireland. One day I may go. Maybe. I don’t know what I will find there. But wherever I go, whatever I do, this Irish blessing will stay with me as I hope it will stay with you:
“As you slide down the banister of life, may the splinters never point in the wrong direction!”
“Luck O’ the Irish Slinky” billaday @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons some Rights Reserved.
“Green River on St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago” Wikipedia
“Caution! Leprechains in Dublin” Urban Digger @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.