Beyond Shamrocks: Celebrating St. Patrick's Day
The Big Apple will become the Green Apple very soon. On March 17th, to mark New York City’s 248th consecutive St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the green line will again be painted down the Fifth Avenue parade route. Although a lot of green will be in evidence, did you know that Ireland’s traditional color was blue? Nevertheless, I’d recommend you wear some green on the 17th or you may get pinched.
May I suggest some ways you might celebrate Irish Heritage Month, as I like to call March? Listening to some of the traditional music is a must—perhaps the Chieftains, the Clancy Brothers, or the great Irish tenor, John McCormack. And since NYPL is celebrating women this month, I’d recommend Susan McKeown and Cherish the Ladies, both of whose songs you'll find in several collections owned by NYPL. And listen to one of the Irish music radio programs heard locally on WFUV-FM such as A Thousand Welcomes, Ceol na nGael, or NPR’s Celtic music mix, The Thistle & Shamrock. (And a quick comment: Celtic is always pronounced “keltik,” unless you’re referring to a certain basketball team from New England...)
And for some programs which will be both fantastic and free, just take a look at the NYPL calendar.
Here are a few I spotted: Tom Smith, singer and musician, will be performing Songs of the Emerald Isle at the Woodlawn Heights Library on Saturday, March 14 and at Pelham Bay Library on Saturday, March 21. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of John Millington Synge--the great Irish writer and co-founder of Dublin’s Abbey Theater--the Library for the Performing Arts is presenting a series of programs on Synge, his works, and his influence.
Immigrant History Week in April gives The Library yet another opportunity to celebrate Irish culture. The Ottendorfer Library will welcome Tom Deignan on Saturday, April 18 to speak about Saints & Sinners: Irish Heroes & Villains. He’ll speak again on that topic on Tuesday, April 21 at Great Kills Library. The Acosta School of Irish Music & Dance will entertain at the West New Brighton Library on Saturday, April 18.
A children’s program of special note: “The Silkie,” a musical puppet show based on the the Celtic folktales about the mythical seals who shed their skin and come ashore in human form, will be performed at ten branches between March 12 and April 25. You may know of the silkies, also called selkies or selchies, from the film, The Secret of Roan Inish.
Be sure to pay a visit to the Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City. There is a recreated 19th century Irish cottage, stones and vegetation taken from all parts of Ireland, and a memorial to raise awareness of not only the Great Irish Famine, but hunger and famine throughout the world.
One last thing—don’t forget to eat appropriately. I’d recommend a corned beef, which is almost sure to taste delectable if you cook it long enough. Although this is not a food commonly eaten in Ireland for St. Patrick's Day, it’s what the Irish-American laborers feasted on in the many bars and restaurants that catered to them when they came over here in droves, and it has become a must. Have it with plenty of cabbage and boiled potatoes, or a nice colcannon. Be sure to include some good mustard and don’t forget the Irish soda bread. For a New York touch, get a good rye bread for leftovers later and your guests will think they died and went to heaven. No need for green beer or any other strong drink; although some will disagree with me on this and will remind me that the word whiskey is from the Irish word for water, “uisge,” demonstrating a connection there. But bear in mind, Ireland has a large population of teetotalers, partially the effect of the Pioneer Association which was started by the Jesuits in Ireland in 1898.
If you’re having company over for your St. Patrick’s feast, why don’t you participate in a tradition widespread in Ireland—the “party piece”? Ask each guest to come prepared to perform something—recite a poem, sing a song, play a tune, even tell a joke. It’s amazing what people will come up with! But above all, have a great time.
May the road rise up to meet you, May the wind be ever at your back, May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall softly on your fields And until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of His hand.
-Traditional Irish Blessing