Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

by Cleary O'Farrell

Having a name like “Cleary O’Farrell” certainly denotes an Irish heritage. So, all you lasses, I now get a guest spot on Mapel’s blog, and I am going to tell you about the history of St. Patrick’s Day.

I was never too good at sitting and learning/listening in school, so I’ll try to keep this short and concise. The way I have heard it from my grandmother, Kathleen Browne (as well as the History channel), St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is believed to have lived wayyyyy back in the days when function ruled over fashion, and socks with sandals was accepted. He died on March 17, 460 A.D.

Patrick had a tough go of it. At 16, he was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who attacked his family's estate in Britain. They transported him to Ireland where he spent SIX YEARS in captivity. During this time he worked as a shepherd; outdoors and away from people. After finally deciding that sheep were not so good for companions, Patrick escaped.

Patrick walked nearly 200 miles from County Mayo where he was held, to the Irish coast. He began religious training (and hopefully some socialization classes), which lasted more than fifteen years. After his ordination as a priest, St. Patrick was sent to Ireland with a dual mission = to minister to Christians already living in Ireland and to begin to convert the Irish. The fable about him chasing some snakes out of Ireland is funny, but it is actually a symbolic story about Patrick converting non-Christians and making Ireland Christian (get it = snakes/Eve’s serpent/pagans).

My family’s story in America began around 1845 when the “Great Potato Famine” occurred. The crop for the Irish people’s main food staple, the potato, was dying because of a rapidly spreading disease. This is when my family came over here to escape starvation, and to discover a new world without carbs. The Irish were at first despised for their lack of education and weird accents and had trouble finding even menial jobs. When these Irish partied like we are known to on St. Patrick's Day, newspapers portrayed them in cartoons as drunken, violent monkeys. They were frequently called very non-PC names, banned from restaurants, apartment homes, etc.

However, the Irish soon began to realize that their large numbers brought them power. They started to organize, and their voting block known as the "green machine," became an important swing vote for political hopefuls. Suddenly, annual St. Patrick's Day parades became a must-attend event for political candidates. In 1948, President Truman attended New York City 's St. Patrick's Day parade, a proud moment for the many Irish whose ancestors had to fight stereotypes and racial prejudice to find acceptance in America.

Today I am wearing green beads (because I do not look so great in green clothing) and having one of the Irish “car bomb” cupcakes I shared with the office. Tonight I will drink a green beer or two and be thankful that I live in the present day, where it’s hip to be Irish, and haters are so last millennium.

No comments: