Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bah Humbug!

            I have a confession to make. I really don’t like St. Patrick’s Day. I am of Irish ancestry (among other things) and I love LOVE all things Irish. The only graduate level course I ever took was called The Celtic Heroic Age. My favorite vacation was exploring some of the ancient fortresses, cairns and castles of Ireland with my husband Dan. Our wedding rings have Celtic knotwork etched into them. Ireland is a country that took the language of it’s oppressors and made it sing with writers like James Joyce, William Butler Yeats, Brian Friel, Sean O’Casey, John Synge and on and on. I am very proud of that heritage.
With a family tree that includes names like Gillen, Crowley, and O’Callaghan, you might think I’d celebrate like crazy on St. Patrick’s Day. But I really hate to see a culture so rich in history and tradition reduced to green beer and gross food once a year. For the record—the Irish don’t really eat corned beef and cabbage—Irish-American immigrants ate it because it was all they could afford.
            I know, I know, I KNOW… I’m a big-giant killjoy. The thing that really pushed me over the edge was the stuff my kids hear in school. Apparently leprechauns now leave those little chocolate gold coins in some children’s shoes the night before St. Patrick’s Day. Oh, Come on! I’m already Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. Now you’re telling me I’m supposed to be a leprechaun too? Leprechauns are not those cute benevolent little guys you seen on the cereal box. They are sneaky, scheming little tricksters who do NOT SHARE THEIR GOLD. In traditional stories about leprechauns, the humans usual come to a very bad end. Trust me, they may be little, but you do not want to mess with a leprechaun.
            I have a few suggestions for great books for kids that take a more authentic view of Ireland and it’s wonderful storytelling tradition.
 Tales from Old Ireland by Malachy Doyle and Niamh Sharkey

 Fin M’Coul: The Giant of Knockmany Hill by Tomie dePaola
Daniel O’Rourke: An Irish Tale by Gerald McDermott

            And if you want to introduce your child to St. Patrick, you might start with Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie dePaola which chronicles St. Patrick’s beginnings as a slave through his life spreading Christianity in Ireland.

            I may be a bit of a St. Patrick’s Day scrooge, but if I find myself in a bar tonight, I’ll be sure and lift my glass to Ireland and my to my readers. Slainté!

Full disclosure: this is a bar in England, not Ireland but I do love to drink Guinness.

            Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go research a piece to write about St. Joseph’s Day, which is tomorrow. St. Joseph is the patron saint of Italy and if I don’t give equal time, another branch of the family may never forgive me!