What started out as a day of celebration many years ago has developed into a week-long extravaganza of parties, music, dancing, food and fodder.
St. Patrick’s Day Week, as it is now known in my family, begins Friday with a bang and continues until all the pints and stories have been passed, all songs have been sung, and new friends have been made, oh, throw in an Irish jig or two.
Over the years we have had parties with karaoke and celebrated in various pubs across three counties; last year we woke up Long Beach as we traveled with an Irish band aboard the “The Big Red Bus;” an open-aired party that continued into the wee hours of the following day.
The Irish band I follow, once all the way to Ireland, will be entertaining the crowd in Temecula on St. Patrick’s Day, so that will be one of our stops during the week. I might as well throw in a little wine-tasting too as long as I’m there.
I am not like some who are Irish only one day a year; I am 100 percent Irish 365 days a year. It has always been a special time throughout my life and encouraged by my mother to celebrate our Irish roots.
My mother, Ruth McCain (cousin to Senator John McCain)and my father Richard Ganley were born in Emmetsburg Iowa. Emmetsburg is known as the sister city to Dublin Ireland because the small town of approximately 2,000 trace their ancestry all the way to Ireland.
In Emmetsburg, on St. Patrick’s Day the town closes down, including schools, (not the pubs of course) and everyone has the day off. The people of Emmetsburg celebrate with a parade through the town, the route does have a few pit stops along the way.
My Uncle John McCain has been the Grand Marshall of the parade since 1960 when he and a few friends concocted the idea after a long “business meeting.” He even had a factory where the official first can of blarney was canned.
My mothers family is from Newport Ireland in County Mayo, and my father’s from a small village in western Ireland. This area is beautiful with windswept mountains, low stone walls and peat bogs.
During the Great Famine this area suffered most from emigration, a trend that continues today.
You can’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day without speaking of “the little people,” who play a large part of Irish folklore. Centuries ago, it was believed that fairies lived under mounds of earth and that touching one of these tiny figures brought bad luck. The most famous of the “little people” is the leprechaun, and legends tells that if you caught one of these, he would lead you to a crock of gold.
Some of the lore includes the belief that St. Patrick gave a sermon from a hilltop and drove all the snakes from Ireland. We have since learned since that no snakes were ever native to Ireland.
What originally began as a Catholic holy day, St. Patrick’s Day, has evolved into more of a secular holiday for all to enjoy, even if it’s for just one day out of the year.
I’ve been polishing up on my Irish dances, songs and stories and I am now ready to begin my week.
So, this St. Patrick’s Day dance as if no one were watching, sing as if no one were listening, and live every day as if it were your last.
Erin Go Bragh.