Celebrating My Irish Heritage

Posted on March 17, 2016 by Lesley Arnold

Our blog post this week is written by Deb Velto, the Oak Meadow K-8 Director! ENJOY!

St. Patrick’s day can be a fun day for everyone, and it is especially important to our family because our ancestors are from Ireland. It is one of my favorite holidays, and I wanted to share a bit about my Irish heritage and the way we celebrate this day in our family.
Wearing green is something many people do on St. Patrick’s day, whether they are Irish or not. The tradition of wearing green comes from the Celtic tradition of wearing green during the vernal equinox to symbolize the new life of Spring. When Catholics, like St. Patrick, came to Ireland they adopted the tradition of wearing the color green as a symbol of Catholicism. The Irish flag is made up of a green stripe and an orange stripe with a white stripe between. The white stripe between the two symbolizes the unity of Catholicism (green) and Protestantism (orange) in Ireland, although even today, religious identity continues to be a source of conflict in Ireland. My grandmother always said that you got a pinch on St. Patrick’s day if you weren’t wearing green!
Because we are vegetarian, we do not eat the traditional corned beef and cabbage on March 17th, although I did grow up thinking it was delicious! Over the past twenty years, I have developed my own vegetarian versions of Irish dishes. For breakfast, we always have Irish tea and Irish oatmeal and scones or Irish soda bread. Our dinner table has vegetarian Shepherd’s pie (trust me, it is good), Kilcullen (a traditional Irish cabbage dish), brown bread, stuffed cabbage, and red potatoes. Of course, many people eat corned beef and cabbage, which is also a delicious Irish treat.
Irish music is one of my favorite parts of this time of year, and one that we always enjoy all day on St. Patrick’s day. Many varieties of flute, fiddle, and harp are traditionally Irish. The Irish hand drum is my favorite instrument, the Bodhrán (pronounced boe-rawn), which you might recognize as the pulsating beat in most traditional songs. Uilleann pipes have been played traditionally since the 5th century, and are often recognized in traditional Irish melodies. Irish music is fun to listen to, sing along to, and dance to! Some musicians to look for are the Chieftans and the Clancy Brothers.
Here is a clip of some musicians in Ireland: IRISH MUSIC
One new tradition my children have started is to set a leprechaun trap in our house the night before St. Patrick’s day. We haven’t caught one yet, but sometimes a leprechaun may leave behind a coin or other trinket, and cause other trouble in our house. For example, turning the milk in our refrigerator green!
I was lucky enough to visit Ireland several years ago with my mother. We spent time while we were there researching our family history. It so fascinating to find the documents related to where our family lived, in County Mayo Ireland, and when they immigrated during the potato famine and after. Many Irish immigrants came to America during the Potato famine – it is a sad but interesting part of European history to learn about. When I was in Ireland, I remember being struck by the beautiful green hills, gorgeous hydrangeas, and amazing castles that we saw!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone, whether you are Irish, or only Irish “for a day”!  I hope you have a chance to learn a bit more about Ireland, and Irish culture today!