Parade snapped by @topgold in Cashel, Co Tipperary
IT'S ST PATRICK'S DAY in Ireland but if you had the calendar used by my Stateside family, it's late. It seems most of the local Paddy's Day festivities in my former stomping grounds happened last weekend, which means when my Facebook images start bubbling up in newsfeeds today my closest family will think I'm having a senior moment.
I'm listening to a stream of random audio clips on Anchor.fm from Americans who are trying to ascribe cultural significance to St Patrick's Day. To many people, you can distil the occasion down to green beer, shamrocks and leprechauns. After 20 years in Ireland, I've never had those three things on St Patrick's Day so I wonder if those three symbols represent mutt culture identity.
In my own family history, I know my great-grandmother came from a small stone bungalow in County Clare. Four generations back, my family had survived the family in the west of Ireland, took hard-earned savings and made the journey across the Atlantic to settle in St Mary's Parish of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. That congregation was a mash-up of Irish and German, resulting in my grandparents marrying there.
I dive into Ancestry.com and uncover tidbits of rural modesty that underscores my Irish and German peasant stock. If Marty McFly landed in our front garden to take me back to those boreens, I might feel uneasy during any conversation around the peat-burning hearth with my ancestors.
To enhance my awareness of my roots, I'll attend several small town parades on St Patrick's Day. Nothing fancy and often very spontaneous activities. I won't be surprised if one of the parade floats runs out of petrol or if a hay bale on the back of a trailer catches fire or if a big placard falls off the front of an over-sized tractor and gets blackened by tyre tread marks. Because these are the authentic Paddy's Day events that precede friendly banter in the local pub when friends chat about how Paddy's Day was for them.
And for you? Do you have family roots in original Paddy's Day celebrations?
+++ Bernie Goldbach is a blow-in American living in County Tipperary, Ireland, with his family with a few photos of St. Patrick's Day in Ireland.