Saturday, March 17, 2012

La'Fheile Pa'draig Sona Daoibh 2012

Posting on St Patrick's Day has become something of a tradition here at "Just Blowing Smoke", and the fact that it falls this year on a Saturday (when I normally post anyway) makes it even easier to continue that custom.  I try to add and/or change a bit of this annual effort from year to year to keep from boring my audience (at least no more than I normally do); and in 2012 I've decided to add a couple of musical efforts from a group of local Kansas City Irish lads that has achieved a good bit of notoriety around the world, "The Elders". (Hopefully, sharing their abilities with my growing, but rather twisted group of readers will meet with their blessing.  If not, they'll no doubt be 'wigs on the green'.).  By doing so, I'm hoping that such music might put you in the proper mood while you read on.  (The one above is entitled fittingly enough:  "Men of Erin".)

And so here it is; time once again for this humble scribbler born of Irish origins to wish all of you that most glorious of annual salutations:

La'Fheile Pa'draig Sona Duit

Now for those unfamiliar with the ancient Hibernian tongue, I have in fact wished you, individually, a Happy St. Patrick's Day in Gaelic. (The phrase is pronounced "La ale-lah pwad-rig son a ditch".  The plural version rests in the title, and is pronounced, "La ale-lah pwad-rig son a jeev".)       

St Patrick is of course, the patron saint of 'The Island of Saints and Scholars', more commonly known as Ireland (pronounced 'areland). The Island of Eire, as it's known in its native tongue is also known as the Emerald Isle, since the regular and abundant rains produce a countryside dominated by the same lovely shade of green as its crystalline namesake. More fortuitously on this day for those who celebrate it however, it's the land where Irish monks first created the nectar of the gods more commonly known as Whiskey (probably as a defense against the rigors of their chosen monastic lifestyle); and for the production of the finest product of the brewer's art ... Guinness. 

(Actually, it's a little known fact that it was God Himself who created whiskey, but the monks decided to take credit for it.  For those of you wondering, it's said that its original purpose was to keep the Irish from conquering the world. ...  and you have to admit, so far it's succeeded.) 

St Patrick himself is said not to have followed quite the strict path that his later monastic brethren were to his heavenly reward, instead choosing a rather more tortuous one; walking a fine line between angering the Celtic heathens he sought to convert and the incurring the ire of the Church he sought to serve.  And since this is ostensibly a day held in celebration of his labors, it would seem downright rude not to recount at least in brief, some of his history.

Patrick is in fact quite curious as patron saints go, even Irish ones. Of course this might have something to do with the fact that he wasn't Irish, but English instead. He actually came to Ireland for the first time in chains as a captured slave (which is the manner in which the Irish are said to be most fond of entertaining their British neighbors). He escaped his captivity after some six years however and returned to his home in Britain, eventually becoming a deacon, taking his ordination vows as a priest, and later still becoming a bishop. He returned to Ireland as a Catholic missionary, working mostly in the north and the west of the island. Very little is actually known of the places where he preached and labored, though legends abound of the locations where he purportedly stopped and the miracles he performed while carrying out his chosen vocation. 

This missionary work ultimately proved a successful one, and the country remains largely a Catholic one to this day. And while the model of the Catholic Church that he worked toward did not come about while he was alive or even as a result of his labors, he was nevertheless named the Patron Saint of Ireland by the eighth century.

Now Irish tradition holds that St Patrick used the Shamrock to teach the heathen peoples of the island the Catholic mystery of the Holy Trinity, which may explain its popularity as a symbol today. This tale may be more an example of the Irish flair for the 'telling of a good tale" than one of actual doctrinal education however, as the accounts of the use of this three-leafed white clover only began to appear in popular myth centuries after his death.

The noted Irish knack for exaggeration and overstatement might likewise be held responsible for the famous accounts of St Patrick chasing the snakes from Ireland's shores, since there have never actually been snakes in Ireland. (In defense of such myths, it should noted that the Irish seldom let the truth get in the way of a good story.) 

Regardless of the legendary nature of his time on earth (excused as perhaps no more than a bit of Blarney), or the fact that he was never formally canonized by the Catholic Church, we nevertheless celebrate his feast day every year on March 17th, the date believed to be that of his death in 493.  

(Even that much about St Patrick creates a powerful thirst in a man, and would no doubt constitute sufficient reason to stop off at the pub for a pint or two. This affinity undoubtedly accounts in large part for the relationship between the festivities being celebrated and the man himself;  and have nothing to do of course, with fondness the Irish have for for a pint or a 'touch of the Irish'.) 

As I have pointed out on previous occasions here, March 17th is also the birthday of one of my grandchildren, Margaret Ruth Tipatina Demaria. ("lá breithe sona Maggie")  "Maggie Moo Kropotnik", will be turning six on this day of ancestral family revelry if my often failing memory still serves me correctly. Rumor has it that they will once again be holding parades in New York City (near where she lives) and in Chicago (where my own roots are) in celebration of this more recent, but equally blessed event.

Strange as it may seem, you will probably not find me making a pub crawl locally on this 'feast day'. For while personal considerations indeed make it a day worthy of all manner of celebration, I tend to avoid the crowds often attendant to the occasion (though I admit to being rather tempted to make my way down to a certain 'hooley' this evening where The Elders will be performing). In the spirit of the myth and the man however, I am persuaded at the very least, to offer an Irish toast for all of you on this day of days for the Demaria clan, for the O'hUig'in clan (the ancestral name of the Higgins), and for that paragon of Irish virtue (such as it is) ... St Patrick. It's a sentiment that should speak to all those considering themselves true Irishmen, and even those only so blessed on this one day of the year:

May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
And the rain fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of His hand
And may you live in peace and freedom

All of this may be a bit too complicated for those of you already firmly in the grip of green Anheuser-Busch or Miller products in what is undoubtedly a heartfelt, but terribly misguided form of Celtic revelry.  Surely it's beyond the comprehension of those of you who have or will graduate to Car Bombs far too early in the day. (A Car Bomb is a shot of Irish whiskey dropped into a pint of Guinness, with the name coming from the effect that drinking such a concoction in one long swallow normally has on the consumer's brain.) 

So for you 'happy few, you band of Irish brothers', let me offer instead this far more simple effort:

"May you be in heaven for two hours before the devil knows you're dead!"


(For those of you looking for something a bit more up tempo to kick off the day's celebration, you need look no farther than the following tune, "Packy Go Home", again from 'The Elders'.)


Roland Hansen said...

The wife and I attended a St. Patty's Party a day early at the Humana Guidance Center -- the strongest beverage we had was a green colored lime water that accompanied green frosted cookies, green frosted cupcakes, and Irish soda bread. Unfortunately, because of my diabetes, I had to pass on the cookies and cupcakes and limit the bread to a very small portion.
I am reminded, however, of several past trips to San Francisco where I had some wonderful Irish coffee at the Buena Vista Cafe at the corner of Beach and Hyde.

Timothy W Higgins said...

I likewise kept my celebrations to a rather limited nature, and was not even lucky enough to take advantage of fine Irish cuisine.

And I too have many fond memories of SF and of that signature cocktail from the Buena Vista.