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For the Luck of the Irish

While it seems everyone tries to keep their heads down and hide until St. Valentine’s Day is over, quite the opposite can be said when it comes to St. Patrick’s Day nearly a month later. Once March is upon us green isn’t just on money anymore, it is incorporated into every decoration, food, and everyday item we can imagine. Much the way pumpkin flavors overwhelm us in the fall, this week we can expect to see many Irish whiskey and corn beef and cabbage signs.

I am half Italian and half Irish but have to admit that I have no real connection to my Irish heritage especially when it comes to food. When I was in elementary school and you had to bring in food from your culture I always brought in homemade pizza and was excited to taste the Irish soda bread that someone else’s mother had made. I never identified with it. In fact a long running joke in my family is that a great aunt of mine use to tease me and say that I was Italian and my brother was Irish. He would get money for St. Patrick’s Day and I would get money for St. Joseph’s Day, which is two days later. This is still the way I like to think of things even thought I am more American than anything else. When I think of my mother country I am thinking of England and the origin of the thirteen colonies. I know no one on either side of my family that feels this way. I am nothing if not original.

What is so interesting to me is how this religious holiday has morphed into this party like atmosphere with a life of its own. The funny t-shirts, the face painting, and all the leprechaun wannabes are best seen on display on Fifth Avenue in New York City for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. New York City has several parades a year, for major holidays, and I recommend seeing at least one before you die. As a life long New Yorker I have only been to one, and it was the St. Patrick’s Day parade over ten years ago when I was in high school.

When I remember back to that day, I remember that I was with my friend and her family and how crowded the streets were. I remember that we pushed our way to the front to get a good view. I remember eating soft pretzels from the street vendor. But my very first memory from that day is my favorite, that former Mayor Ed Koch walked right by us and when I said hello to him he looked at me and said hello back. I was so excited because he was such a warm and charismatic man. It is so ironic that I am reflecting on this memory now, as the Mayor died this past February. But I am looking forward to watching the documentary that will be coming out about him in the next few months. (

Even though this holiday began in Ireland and is popularly celebrated in New York, many cities across the United States have big celebrations for St. Patty’s Day. Among my favorite is Chicago. Chicago is an amazing place in general to visit but if you are there during this time in March you will get to see a special treat. The Chicago River will be dyed green!!

Here is what it looks like:

This started as an accident back in 1961 and now is done in an environmental friendly way. The green dye is only for the day and is filtered out once the holiday is over. Needless to say Chicago also has a great parade to celebrate.

Another major city for a St. Patrick’s Day is New Orleans. There is a whole list of events and parades. If you are in Las Vegas I can recommend an authentic Irish Bar, “Nine Fine Irishmen”. Everything from the light fixtures to the drinks are from the old country and there is a good time to be had.

Nowadays this holiday has some traditional aspects for me. Even though I am not attending the parade or drinking from the wee hours in the morning, I do have dinner with my aunt, uncle and cousins on my Irish side of the family when possible. The last couple of years that we have done this I have really enjoyed the idea that we are carving out another special day for our family to set some time apart to celebrate our roots, culture, and above all each other.

If you survived a day of drinking, and eating corn beef and cabbage, I suppose you really do have the luck of the Irish with you!!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!

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