I’m a proud Irish girl, I hail from Chicago originally but we can trace Grandma Judy’s roots back to 1810 and County Cork, Ireland. My Great, Great Grandfather, Patrick O’Connor left the rolling hills of the Emerald Isle and set out for America, and the rest is Irish-American history. St. Patrick’s Day in our family is nearly, if not as big as Christmas!
Grandma Judy’s mom, my grandma, Alice Smith and her brothers and sisters were very influential in my upbringing. Alice was a red haired, freckled irish girl who had 9 brothers & sisters.
Family gatherings were a blast, and I’m not gonna lie, they were a fun, raucous, drinkfest! LOL! My Grandma Alice & My mom, and my Aunt Dottie used to keep me out of school and I legit thought it was a national holiday until I was about 12 years old! We would go into the city to my Aunt Dottie & Uncle Bud’s house for a big family party, no matter what day of the week it fell on. We often stayed over night, and went home the next day! The celebration rivals Christmas, and it is still going on, even though Aunt Dottie is now 91 years old! Cousins from far and wide come to attend the party.
Aunt Dottie.. 91 years old.. Betty White’s got nothin’ on her!
Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago:
No one celebrates St. Patty’s Day like Chicago. Well, except maybe Ireland. But when you’re on this side of the Emerald Isle, there’s no better city to spend the holiday than Chicago. In fact, Chicagoans are so attached to their Irish heritage that we stretch the festivities over two separate parades – one in downtown and one on the South Side.
The downtown parade is held on Columbus Drive from Balbo Drive to Monroe Drive. Thousands gather along the sidelines to cheer on the procession and see the groups of kilt-wearing bagpipers, mounted guard, dance troupes (Back in the day, Goosie could bust a jig & reel with the best of them!), school bands, city officials and decorated floats. Before the parade begins, people hover on the Michigan Avenue and Columbus Drive bridges to catch a glimpse of the traditional dyeing of the river green. The South Side parade heads down Western Avenue from 103rd Street to 115th Street, through the neighborhoods of Beverly and Morgan Park.
Who Was St. Patrick? And Why is his life celebrated by so many?
St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. To become a saint, one must perform miracles
[Via Wiki] Saint Patrick (Latin: Patricius; Proto-Irish: *Qatrikias; Modern Irish: Pádraig;[needs IPA] Welsh: Padrig) was a 5th-centuryRomano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. Known as the “Apostle of Ireland”, he is the primary patron saint of the island along with Saints Brigit and Columba.
The dates of Patrick’s life cannot be fixed with certainty but, on a widespread interpretation, he was active as a missionary in Ireland during the second half of the fifth century. He is generally credited with being the first bishop of Armagh, Primate of Ireland.
When he was about 16, he was captured from his home in Great Britain, and taken as a slave to Ireland, where he lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family. After becoming a cleric, he returned to northern and western Ireland. In later life, he served as an ordained bishop, but little is known about the places where he worked. By the seventh century, he had already come to be revered as the patron saint of Ireland.
Saint Patrick’s Day is observed on March 17 the date of his death. It is celebrated inside and outside Ireland as a religious and cultural holiday. In the dioceses of Ireland, it is both a solemnity and a holy day of obligation; it is also a celebration of Ireland itself.
St. Patrick uses shamrock in an illustrative parable
(for homeschoolers, this is a great article on using a shamrock to illustrate the Trinity:http://www.parentsforchrist.com/content/articles/329.shtml
Legend (dating to 1726, according to the OED) credits St. Patrick with teaching the Irish about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity by showing people theshamrock, a three-leafed plant, using it to illustrate the Christian teaching of three persons in one God. For this reason, shamrocks are a central symbol for St Patrick’s Day.
The shamrock had been seen as sacred in the pre-Christian days in Ireland. Due to its green color and overall shape, many viewed it as representing rebirth and eternal life. Three was a sacred number in the pagan religion and there were a number of “Triple Goddesses” in ancient Ireland, includingBrigid, Ériu, and the Morrigan.
St. Patrick banishes all snakes from Ireland
The absence of snakes in Ireland gave rise to the legend that they had all been banished by St. Patrick chasing them into the sea after they attacked him during a 40-day fast he was undertaking on top of a hill. This hagiographic theme draws on the mythography of the staff of the prophet Moses. In Exodus 7:8–7:13, Moses and Aaron use their staffs in their struggle with Pharaoh’s sorcerers, the staffs of each side morphing into snakes. Aaron’s snake-staff prevails by consuming the other snakes.
However, all evidence suggests that post-glacial Ireland never had snakes, as on insular “New Zealand, Iceland, Greenland and Antarctica… So far, no serpent has successfully migrated across the open ocean to a new terrestrial home” such as from Scotland at one point only eight miles from Ireland, where a few native species have lived, “the venomous adder, the grass snake, and the smooth snake”, as National Geographic notes, and although sea snake species separately exist. ”At no time has there ever been any suggestion of snakes in Ireland, so [there was] nothing for St. Patrick to banish”, says naturalist Nigel Monaghan, keeper of natural history at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin, who has searched extensively through Irish fossil collections and records.
The only biological candidate species for appearing like a native snake in Ireland is the slow worm, actually a legless lizard, a non-native species more recently found in The Burren region of County Clare as recorded since the early 1970s, as noted by the National Parks and Wildlife Service of Ireland, which suspects it was deliberately introduced in the 1960s. So far, the slow worm’s territory in the wild has not spread beyond the Burren’s limestone region which is rich in wildlife.
One suggestion, by fiction author Betty Rhodes, is that “snakes” referred to the serpent symbolism of the Druids during that time and place, as evinced on coins minted in Gaul. Chris Weigant connects “big tattoos of snakes” on Druids’ arms as “Irish schoolchildren are taught” with the way in which, in the legend of St. Patrick banishing snakes, the “story goes to the core of Patrick’s sainthood and his core mission in Ireland.”
Because of his association with snakes, St. Patrick is associated with the deity Damballa in Voodoo
St. Patrick’s crosses (I’m getting a celtic cross as my next tattoo)
There are two main types of crosses associated with St. Patrick, the cross pattée and the saltire. The cross pattée is the more traditional association, while the association with the saltire dates from 1783 and the Order of St. Patrick.
The cross pattée has long been associated with St. Patrick, for reasons that are uncertain. One possible reason is that bishops’ mitres inEcclesiastical heraldry often appear surmounted by a cross pattée. An example of this can be seen on the old crest of the Brothers of St. Patrick.As St. Patrick was the founding bishop of the Irish church, the symbol may have become associated with him. St. Patrick is traditionally portrayed in the vestments of a bishop, and his mitre and garments are often decorated with a cross pattée.  
The cross pattée retains its link to St. Patrick to the present day. For example,it appears on the coat of arms of both the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Armagh and the Church of Ireland Archdiocese of Armagh. This is on account of St. Patrick being regarded as the first bishop of the Diocese of Armagh. It is also used by Down District Council which has its headquarters in Downpatrick, the reputed burial place at St. Patrick.
Saint Patrick’s Saltire is a red saltire on a white field. It is used in the insignia of the Order of Saint Patrick, established in 1783, and after the Acts of Union 1800 it was combined with the Saint George’s Cross of England and the Saint Andrew’s Cross of Scotland to form the Union Flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. A saltire was intermittently used as a symbol of Ireland from the seventeenth century, but without reference to Saint Patrick.
It was formerly a common custom to wear a cross made of paper or ribbon on St Patrick’s Day. Surviving examples of such badges come in many coloursand they were worn upright rather than as saltires.
Thomas Dinely, an English traveller in Ireland in 1681, remarked that “the Irish of all stations and condicõns were crosses in their hatts, some of pins, some of green ribbon.” Jonathan Swift, writing to “Stella” of Saint Patrick’s Day 1713, said “the Mall was so full of crosses that I thought all the world was Irish”.In the 1740s, the badges pinned were multicoloured interlaced fabric. In the 1820s, they were only worn by children, with simple multicoloured daisy patterns. In the 1890s, they were almost extinct, and a simple green Greek cross inscribed in a circle of paper (similar to the Ballina crest pictured). The Irish Times in 1935 reported they were still sold in poorer parts of Dublin, but fewer than those of previous years “some in velvet or embroidered silk or poplin, with the gold paper cross entwined with shamrocks and ribbons”.
St. Patrick’s walking stick grows into a living tree
Some Irish legends involve the Oilliphéist, the Caoránach, and the Copóg Phádraig. During his evangelising journey back to Ireland from his parent’s home at Birdoswald, he is understood to have carried with him an ash wood walking stick or staff. He thrust this stick into the ground wherever he was evangelising and at the place now known as Aspatria (ash of Patrick) the message of the dogma took so long to get through to the people there that the stick had taken root by the time he was ready to move on.
Irish Music Choices I Suggest:
If you’re looking for some traditional Irish music, I suggest The Irish Rovers, The Chieftains, The Clancy Brothers~and if you’d like to explore some more contemporary artists like, The Dropkick Murphys, The Corrs, The Pogues and of course, we can’t forget Flogging Molly. There also happens to be a special station on Pandora just for celebrating and enjoying Irish musical roots:
Some fun Irish themed movies we’ve enjoyed :
Photo © Disney
Darby O’Gill (Albert Sharpe) is a man with the Irish gift of gab who finds himself face-to-face with the magical little people, the leprechauns, in an underestimated Disney classic. Unexpectedly, one of the old storyteller’s tall tales comes true when he captures the King of the Leprechauns, who must grant him three wishes. Unfortunately, all the wishes backfire in amusing, and sometimes frightening, ways.
Although this DVD doesn’t have clovers or leprechauns, Riverdance displays wonderful Irish dancing that will be fun and inspiring for kids. The Riverdance phenomenon has seen the show performed all over the world. This documentary on the popular musical follows its evolution, from its beginnings in Dublin up to its global success in places as diverse as New York City and Geneva.
Far and Away starring Tom Cruise & Nicole Kidman
Simply one of Goosie’s favorite movies, on my top 10 list!
and a little darker: Boondock Saints, the fictional film about the McMannus brothers who set out to rid Boston of evil! This is one of those quirky movies, but too dark for kiddos. (fun to watch when the kids go to bed!)~psst, Norman Reedus is otherwise known more recently for his role as Daryl Dixon on The Walking Dead (the post zombie apoctalyptic cross bow walker killing machine!)
Cute love story about an Irish Chicago family: Return to Me (with Minnie Driver, David Duchovny and Caroll O’Connor)
Sweet Love Story about a couple in Chicago, Cool sights of the city, and a little insight into Irish American family life
The Irish In America: The Long Journey Home (if you hadn’t guessed, Goosie is a huge documentary lover, )The Irish In America, Long Journey Home hosted by Irish-American hottie, with the most striking blue eyes everrrrrrr… Aidan Quinn.
A wonderful PBS series that will educate you on all the interesting and often times heartbreaking struggles of Irish Immigrants.
This series surveys the history of the people of Ireland concerning their impact on the United States of America. For centuries, Ireland suffered under the heel of England and endured hardship that forced thousands to leave. For most, America was the place to go, and this series tells their story from the first colonization efforts to Irish independence in the 20th century.
Children’s movies you may like:
Photo © New Video Group
In this exquisitely animated tale set in eighth century Ireland, Viking raiders threaten to destroy the monastery where young Brendan has lived since the Vikings killed his parents. Brendan lives with his uncle, Abbot Cellach, and he is not generally allowed to leaeve the monastery walls. One day, a newcomer called Brother Aidan arrives and introduces Brendan to an important illuminated manuscript. With help from a wood fairy named Aisling, Brendan defeats the pagan god Crom Cruach and works to help get the manuscript completed. This film has some very scary scenes, and so is recommended for kids ages 7 and up. With Celtic looking patterns, and Irish setting and historical roots, it’s not only a fascinating story, but also a great way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and learn about things like Vikings, monasteries and illuminated manuscripts.
Hallmark movie. A businessman (Quaid) rents a cottage on the magical Emerald Isle which happens to inhabit leprechauns and fairies. One night at a party, a young leprechaun falls in love with a fairy princess. Their forbidden romance starts a war between the mythical communities. The businessman is chosen by the Grand Banshee (Goldberg) to help bring peace to the island which propels him into a wondrously fantastic adventure. NR
Molly and her father have inherited a house in Ireland nicknamed “Misfortune Manor”(a house that brings misfortune to all residents). Soon Molly discovers a leprechaun living in the house, and she befriends him. Unfortunately he has no luck because he hasn’t eaten a four-leaf clover in over a hundred years. When the bad luck begins to rub off on Molly, she gets into all kinds of trouble. She soon turns things around by growing a four-leaf clover so the leprechaun can use his magic. Rated G.
Twenty years after its opening on Broadway, the musical FINIAN’S RAINBOW made its debut on film thanks to Francis Ford Coppola. The movie stars Fred Astaire as Irishman Finian McLonergan, who steals a pot of gold from the leprechaun Og (Tommy Steele) and, with his daughter Sharon (Petula Clark), brings it to Rainbow Valley in the fictional southern state of Missitucky.
The ugly truth about that big religion issue:
Protestants vs Catholics
Did you know.. the colors on the Irish flag represents the religious struggle within the country? The Orange = Protestant, Green = Catholic and White in between = peace between the two)
Traditionally, our family has been Irish protestant, however, we have had several “mixed” marriages, of Irish catholics joining our ranks. Think this is a non-issue to old school traditional Irish folks?
Backstory: My Great Aunt Nell married an Irish Catholic, my Great Grandfather, Jacob Murphy Smith boycotted the wedding, My Great Grandmother, Anna Connors Smith snuck to the church to see her daughter get married. Apparently, he used to call Catholics, “Dirty Cross Backs”. The hurt, the deep seated anger runs deep in some families, it is said.
The conflict in Northern Ireland, which has killed thousands and dates back hundreds of years, has political and religious roots that are centuries old. In modern times the conflict is centered on opposing views of the area’s status. Some people in Northern Ireland, especially the mainly Protestant Unionist community, believe it should remain part of the United Kingdom. Others, particularly the mainly Catholic Nationalist community, believe it should leave the UK and become part of the Republic of Ireland. Go here to learn more about the conflict:Quick BBC Guide to the struggle in Northern Ireland
Learn more about the divided religions of Ireland:
Behind the Mask 1991 documentary by Frank Martin
Five Minutes of Heaven starring Liam Neeson (fictional film)
Recipes I’ve tried…and loved
Corned Beef & Cabbage
~We traditionally serve this with Rye bread and put spicy mustard on the beef~Grandma Alice loved Boston Brown Bread with hers. I usually cook my vegetables separately, as I don’t like the grease from the meat on my cabbage/carrots etc. but it does give it a bit more flavor to cook them in the meat water.
1 2 – 2 1/2 pound corned beef brisket
1 teaspoon whole black pepper
3 medium carrots, quartered lengthwise
2 medium parsnips or 1 medium rutabaga, peeled and cut into chunks
2 medium onions, cut into wedges
10 – 12 new potatoes (1 pound)
1 small cabbage, cut into 6 wedges (1 pound)
1.Trim fat from meat (very important to note your brisket will shrink down in size quite a bit) Place in a 4- to 6-quart pot; add juices and spices from package of beef . Add enough water to cover meat. Add pepper and bay leaves. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 2 hours or until meat is almost tender.
2.Add carrots, parsnips or rutabaga, and onions to meat. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Scrub potatoes; halve or quarter. Add potatoes and cabbage to pot. Cover and cook about 20 minutes more or until vegetables and meat are tender. Discard bay leaves. Remove meat from pot. Thinly slice meat across the grain. Transfer meat and vegetables to a serving platter
Makes about 6 servings, I usually double this recipe so we can have leftovers (use beef for reuben sandwiches!)
Note: If your brisket comes with an additional packet of spices, add it instead of the pepper and bay leaves called for in the ingredient list.(most packaged briskets you buy at the market will have these little packets of seasonings)
Crock Pot Version
(Tip: I usually cook the cabbage separately instead of putting it in with the meat, I think cooking it with the meat makes it greasy, but it’s your call, you’re the cook!)
3-4 Pound Corned Beef Brisket With Seasoning Packet
4 Medium Carrots, Cut Into 3? Pieces
2-3 Medium Onions, Quartered
4 Potatoes, White or Red, Halved (if desired)
1 Head of Cabbage, Quartered
1 Teaspoon Salt
1-2 Teaspoons Pepper
1 1/2 Cups Water
- Place carrots, onion and potatoes* (if desired) in crock-pot.
- Add beef, contents of seasoning packet, salt and pepper.
- Add 1 1/2 cups water.
- Cook on low for 10-12 hours or high for 5-6.
- After 5 hours on low or 3 hours on high, add cabbage wedges, pushing down into liquid.
- To cook more cabbage then will fit in crock-pot, place cabbage in skillet or dutch oven during last hour of cooking.
- Add 1 cup liquid from crock-pot over cabbage and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
*Potatoes in the crock-pot may leave less room for cabbage so you can either omit them or cook them on the top of the stove with cabbage wedges as described. Make sure there is enough liquid to cover the potatoes.
Irish Soda Bread Recipe (from my Aunt Patty)
1 1/2C. raisins
1TBSP. baking powder
1tsp. baking soda
2 slightly beaten eggs
1 3/4C. buttermilk
2TBSP vegetable oil
Mix in order given. Grease & flour a loaf pan, bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean (the traditional Irish way to test for doneness, is to test with a wick from a broom~use a clean one, people!) Let cool in pan for 10 minutes and remove from pan & let cool.
Suggested Reading Choices to get you in the mood
Kids book suggestions:
- St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning by Eve Bunting
- Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Curious George by H.A. Rey
- The Night Before St. Patrick’s Day by Natasha Wing
See this Amazon List of Favorite children’s books on the topic of St. Patrick’s Day
A few more ideas for your St. Patrick’s Day Celebration: Click HERE to go to my Pinterest board