Berger’s Burg: Non-Irish: Celebrate St. Paddy’s Day

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If you take a peek at the calendar you will see that the religious and festive holiday of St. Patrick's Day is high-stepping toward us once again. So, forget about preparing your income tax, cancel your visit to your mother-in-law's, and side-bar your reminders of the Hillary-Rudy brouhaha. Instead, I suggest that you practice conjuring up images of shamrocks, leprechauns, shillelaghs, and the color green (the symbol of the Irish during your entire waking hours).

In addition, you must practice the expression "May the luck of the Irish be with ye" before, during, and after every meal until you get the lilt just right. It must be said with warmth, grace, and conviction. When ready, aim the greeting smilingly, at everyone you meet. And, follow these instructions the moment you finish reading this column.

Continue until you see the clock's little hand and big hand embracing fondly at the stroke of midnight on the morning of March 17. If you follow all these requirements to the letter, you would be extolling your Irish heritage if you are Irish, or enrolled as an adopted son or daughter of Erin, if you are not. In either event, you would then be eligible to partake in any and all sacred privileges contained therein in the book of Irish tradition.

"What are the privileges, you ask. To start off, all men will finally be able to wear that lime-colored tie given to them by their wives on their birthday. The women may unashamedly strut around in the chartreuse dress their Aunt Beryl gave them on their "Sweet-16th." And, some people may even be able to walk in the slightly used green sandals that cousin Gerard bought at a sale and donated to them when he found his feet two sizes too large for them.

There is much more. You may also: "show the flag" by pinning a "Kiss me, I'm Irish" button on your persons, attack with gusto a Gaelic corned beef and cabbage meal, and finally, show your Irish spirit by walking proudly behind the grand marshal, Dr. Kevin Cahill, in this year's 239th St. Patrick's Day Parade.

Most people who complete the initiation do partake in these activities because it is a known fact that on St. Patrick's Day, everyone is Irish. "Why and how did all this begin?" you inquisitively inquire. Relax while I give you a short history lesson on the subject.

The festive and religious St. Patrick's Day is one of the oldest holidays observed in the United States, but not, of course, older than Bob Dole's original supply of Viagra. It originated centuries ago in Ireland, and was brought to the United States by Irish immigrants. St. Patrick, strange as it may seem, was not Irish. He was born in Scotland, somewhere around 385 A.D., and was the son of a Roman government worker.

At that time, the Romans were too weak militarily to defend all of their vast holdings, and Scotland was regularly raided by (guess who?) none other than the Irish. In one such raid, Patrick, a boy of 16, was seized and carried off to Ireland as a slave, Years later, he escaped, but eventually returned to Ireland as a missionary.

Patrick worked with the Irish for almost 40 years, and by the time of his death, which is believed to be in 461, he was beloved throughout the island. Besides the Christian faith, Patrick brought to Ireland reading, writing, and the Latin language. (One has never lived until one has heard Latin spoken with an Irish brogue) No, he did not originate the Irish sweepstakes.

During the Dark Ages of the fifth through 10th centuries, the Irish, taught by Patrick, played a large role in preserving Roman knowledge. Following Patrick's death on March 17, the Irish set that day as a holiday to celebrate the life of their colorful patron.

Subsequently, those Irish Americans who immigrated to this country brought with them their customs, beliefs, and the observance of St. Patrick's Day. Parades were staged in honor of the saint in New York and Boston as early as 1737. And, to this day, this tradition continues. (New York City held its first St. Patrick's Day parade in 1852.) Irish immigrants, incidentally, were a major force in our Revolutionary War. More than half of the colonists who fought the British at the time were Irish. And, there were more Irish who signed the Declaration of Independence than there were signers of any other descent. (An historical aside - yours truly, with quill in hand, was chosen to sign the document also. But before I was called to do so, they threw me out. They must have read some of my newspaper columns).)

The Irish historically had large populations. There were so many Irish in the city of Boston, that on March 17, 1776, when the British were evacuating the city, General George Washington designated "Boston" as the password of the day for compatriots, and "St. Patrick" as the countersign.

And, today, we still honor this grand day with style. Florist shops are filled with green carnations, taverns are serving green beer, and my favorite treat, "Sno Balls" exchange their coats of pink for ones tinted green.

So, at this time I dedicate to my "Irish" readers (and that means everybody), this old Irish blessing: "May you have warm words on a cold evening. A full moon on a dark night, And the road downhill - All the way to your door". And my personal wish that March 17 be a day of sunshine, happiness, and dedication. May the luck of the Irish be with ya. Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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