On March 17, people throughout the world, Irish or not, will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. There will be green beer, green bagels, shamrocks everywhere (or sometimes, mistakenly, four-leafed clovers. Take note, folks…the shamrock only has three leaves!).
Some people will don t-shirts with stereotypical and offensive slogans and images on them, get pissing drunk, sing maudlin American music hall songs, scarf down corned beef and cabbage (an American tradition, by the way, not an Irish one), and somehow persuade themselves that they are celebrating Irish culture.
I get it
I get it. I really do. Cultural festivals are fun. One of the nice things about our multicultural society is that we can learn about and enjoy aspects of other cultures.
So if you want to wear green on March 17, lift a glass of Guinness or two, or even if you just have to slake your passionate craving for corned beef and cabbage, by all means, do so! Fun is fun, after all!
But please…do tone it down a bit! Stereotypes are never OK.
St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland
Except for in some of the big cities, Irish observance of St. Patrick’s Day is very different from what you’ll find here in the U.S. There may be a parade. Perhaps a few more people will drop into the pub. The religious folks will go to Mass. But green fountains? Nah. Green beer? Certainly not! (how can you even drink that?)
St. Patrick was, after all, a bishop. He is known as the apostle of Ireland. While bishops weren’t quite as rigid back in the day, I doubt he would have been terribly impressed by some of the celebrations that go on in his name today.
My favorite St. Patrick’s Day song
There’s a hymn to St. Patrick that is a particular favorite of mine. We sing it every year at the Irish Mass in Mountain View, California, on the Sunday before St. Patrick’s Day.
I’m not suggesting you go to Mass (well, unless you want to!), and you may not be terribly religious (If at all. You don’t have to be religious, or Christian, to enjoy St. Patrick’s Day), but I hope you enjoy this particular aspect of cultural appreciation. Never miss the opportunity to sing in Irish…that’s my motto!
I’ll leave you with the words, a translation, and a recording. And, of course, a happy St. Patrick’s Day! Lá ‘le Pádraig sona daoibh go léir!
Dóchas linn Naomh Pádraig, aspal mór na hÉireann.
Ainm oirdhearc gléigeal, solas mór an tsaoil é.
D’fhill le soiscéal grá dúinn, ainneoin blianta ‘ngéibheann,
Grá mór Mhac na Páirte d’fuascail cách ón daorbhroid.
Sléibhte, gleannta, maighe, ‘s bailte mór na hÉireann,
Ghlán sé iad go deo dúinn, míle glóir dár naomh dhil.
Iarr’mid ort, a Phádraig, guí orainn na Gaela,
Dia linn lá ‘gus oíche, ‘s Pádraig aspal Éireann.
Our hope is St. Patrick, great apostle of Ireland.
A renowned and pure/bright name; a great light to the world.
He returned to us with the gospel of love, despite years of bondage.
The great love of God’s beloved son that freed all from slavery.
Mountains, glens, plains, and great cities of Ireland,
He purified them for us forever; great glory to our dear saint.
We implore you, O Patrick, to pray for us, the Gael.
God with us day and night, and Patrick Ireland’s apostle.
(Note: Verse 1 repeats at the end in the recording above)
Éire go Brách!
In addition to being “The Geeky Gaeilgeoir,” Audrey Nickel is the author of The Irish Gaelic Tattoo Handbook,” published by Bradan Press, Nova Scotia, Canada. For information about the book, including where to buy it, please visit http://www.bradanpress.com/irish-tattoo-handbook/