I have a love-hate relationship with St. Patrick’s Day. Despite the dizzying number of free drink offers I receive, and all the people in the world who use St. Patrick’s Day as an excuse to get freshman-year-in-college drunk, what I love is that I can celebrate a tradition that celebrates all the Cronins and O’Regans and Lynches and Malones that came before me.
I personally detest corned beef and cabbage, and beer for that matter, green and otherwise, but I love that the Irish were the first exporters of corned beef. Ironically enough, it sustained the British Army during the Napoleonic wars. I love Irish soda bread, so named because baking soda was used when yeast was in limited supply and the bread was created from leftover ingredients – buttermilk from butter making, currants and caraway seeds added for flavor. But as the joke goes, the shortest cookbook in the world is the Irish Cookbook.
As Irish literature goes, I wonder if I have always been drawn to the tragic stories of our world, or is it something in my blood that brings me to it, again and again? D.H. Lawrence’s creative method to circumvent the constraints of the Catholic Church are nothing short of genius. Yeats is unparalleled in his romanticism, and even the non-Irish who write about the Irish do so with poetry and truth, like G.K. Chesteron’s “Ballad of the White Horse,” a Cronin favorite: “For the great Gaels of Ireland are the men that God made mad, for all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad.” What truer words have ever been so succinctly spoken about the Irish, except maybe “Never trust an Irishman when he says he is going to make a long story short?” (Okay I penned that one, but it’s true even if I’m not famous.)
I love the history of triumph over struggle – from the potato famine to the rebellion over English ownership. I champion the underdog almost exclusively and I have a charitable nature. I love that I am a descendant of Brian Boru, the last king of Ireland, which clearly explains my champagne tastes on my beer budget, (take note people! Royalty coming through!) and I love that my father wrote a series of recipes in his company’s newsletter entitled “The Druid’s Kitchen,” complete with obscure Irish heritage references he explained to us ad nauseum.
I love the pride in being known as poets and storytellers, funnymen, fighters and lovers, and I love that I was raised with ancestral moral strength. I love the women in my family — steel shamrocks all — who at some point in their lives, took off against the wind and succeeded under everyone’s upturned noses. I love that I see all these qualities in myself, my siblings and our offspring. I love that the nature of the Irish people will endure, and I love that these are the ways I choose to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day – without ever raising a glass of alcohol.