Beannachtai na Feile Padraig!! That’s how you say Happy Saint Patrick’s Day in Gaelic. I know this only because I looked it up, even though half my ancestors came from the auld sod. Though I am the oldest child of my family, I can’t recall any of my elderly relatives on my dad’s side speaking anything but English.
March 17th is widely believed to be the day that Saint Patrick died, and while the accuracy of reports about his driving the snakes out of Ireland are suspect, there are some stories of his life in the late 4th and early 5th century, like the snakes thing, which persist. A real Irishman will tell you Saint Brigid of Kildare, whose feast day is February 1st, has just as strong a claim to be the Patron Saint of Ireland.
My father’s family came from the south of Ireland, a tiny town called Lick Finn in County Cork, which is not much more than a wide spot in the road. I visited the place in the 70’s and actually met someone named Morrissey, so we presumed we were relatives. On that same trip, I went to the nearby Blarney Castle and kissed the famous stone. But, I’m pretty sure I had the gift of the gab long before I got down on my back, grabbed the pipes, and slid out to kiss the Blarney Stone.
The potato famine of 1845 to 1852 caused many of the Morrisseys from Lick Finn to board a ship and sail to America and look for a better life. My ancestors came through Boston, where Morrissey Boulevard is one of the main streets downtown. A couple of the boys got jobs with the railroad, building tracks to the west, and when they got to Rush Lake, Wisconsin, they quit the railroad and bought a tract of land and started farming.
As near as I can tell, I’m not really related to the Irish singer Morrissey. And that’s OK with me, because most of his music is moody and dark and depressing. I like the happy and peppy Celtic stuff, like the dancing and drinking scene below decks, from the movie “Titanic”.
And the corned beef? I know, it’s tradition to eat corned beef and cabbage on Saint Patrick’s Day, but corned beef’s origin is in New York City, not Ireland. The cabbage part is Irish, and, of course, no Irish meal is complete without some form of potatoes.
So wear some green and eat some potatoes and have a green beer – a Guinness or a Smithwick’s would be nice – or a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey. But above all, have fun – it’s what the Irish would want you to do.