Aside from the globally recognized St. Patrick’s Day traditions: all things green, parades, and spending too much time thinking about how to capture a leprechaun, I didn’t realize this seventeenth of March had such a humble beginning. It has brought such joy in understanding my heritage.
More Than Meets the Eye
Born into a well-established family, a teenage boy was kidnapped from his home and held captive in a foreign land with nothing but his faith for solace. Between the hardships and heartbreaks, he found his heart ached for the people of the land. After roughly 15 years of being a slave, we was released and returned anew. His name no longer the one given to him at birth, but now called by the name more akin to his purpose. Patrick (meaning father figure) returned to Ireland with his heart overflowing with love and compassion.
While it is believed that Patrick used the shamrock to teach about the Holy Trinity, it is without a doubt Patrick truly embodied the phrase “bloom where you are planted.” His influence among the Irish people changed the future of their faith and strengthened their resiliency when hard times came their way.
What was once a more somber day of remembrance for the saint who walked among the, ironically, captivating landscape of Ireland has now become a highly commercialized holiday. Has the purpose of St. Patrick’s teachings been lost to a fixation on all things green, rainbows, and luck? Or has this day manifested the power of love, inclusion, and our ability to turn tragedy into triumphs?
More Than a Single Color
The Irish flag was historically, and is still, used in presidential standards. It is a blue flag with a gold harp, as the country was once under British rule. The Irish tricolor flag seen today made its public debut in 1848 symbolizing the healing of Ireland after the devastation and divide following the “Great Famine.” The green represents the traditional Irish republicanism, whereas the orange was in support of the unionists minority having a voice in the independence movement. The white bonds these two parties together and signifies the recognition of inclusion — that regardless of heritage origins, political preferences or religious beliefs, they are all Irish.
More Than a Reason to Feast
It was 1737 when a group of Irish men took to the streets singing and celebrating as they made their way down to the local pub to feast in homage to their culture’s patron saint. This grassroots parade turned into a more formal tradition as the growth of Irish immigrants in America grew during the 19th century. Acknowledging where they came from with great appreciation for their newly found freedoms in America, Irish Americans creatively expressed their integrated identity and invited others to join in on the celebrations. By the 20th century, this once highly religious day of honoring the late St. Patrick had evolved into a celebration of Irish culture and a testament to the blending of cultures through immigration.
More Than a Last Name
When I asked “me da” (my dad) about being Irish, he showed me the family crest. Together we traced the family lineage dating back to the early 1800s. Though we’re not sure when the family settled in America, we do know our family clan has served this country through acts of agriculture, military service, and countless hours volunteering in the communities where we live.
As March 17 draws near, an Irish tricolor flag atop a shamrock wreath dons the wall above a framed family crest in my living room. This display serves as a reminder of the patron saint who lived his life’s purpose ministering to the Irish people and my family’s history.
As a “ma” (mom), I am trying to be more intentional teaching my son about different cultures and the holidays celebrated throughout the year. From the carefully curated books in his room to finding historically accurate educational programs to watch together, I believe it’s never too early to start conversations about inclusion and respect for all people. By sharing stories about his ancestors and the history behind the most globally celebrated Irish day, I hope the humble beginnings and the open arms for all to join are not lost but rather embraced.
Wherever you find yourself in the sea of green this mid-March, let’s raise a glass to family and friends who become family. Sláinte!
May you be kind. May you be safe. May you be you (or be a wee bit Irish, too).