“With rings on her fingers
And bells on her toes
Elephants to ride upon
My little Irish Rose
So come to your Nebob
And next St. Patrick’s Day
You’ll be Mrs. Mumbo Jumbo
Jidi boo Sheh”
I hope you enjoyed this 1909 classic Irish song. You can jump on my green flying shamrock carpet and travel into the sweet world of March. As we all know, March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. So first, don your best green clothes, because you do not want to get a pinch to grow an inch. Now breathe in a touch of the Irish and kiss the Blarney Stone as you begin to learn some things about March.
The name March is a regal name that comes from ancient Rome, meaning Mars. Below our flying shamrock you can see a sea of yellow daffodils. March is the first month of Spring, and by some bit of luck, it is also Irish-American Heritage Month. March is known for two big holidays, one where you find candy, and the other to drink a lot of beer and eat corned beef and cabbage.
March is the month that was bad for Julius Caesar (his Ides of March assassination spoiled the month for him.). March is an eye opener for animals who hibernate. It also is a month that has basketball fans glued to their television sets so much that it is called March Madness, but the madness is not permanent.
Of course, the banner event is Saint Patrick’s Day, honored on March 17. The day is honored as the feast day of Saint Patrick. Strangely, Saint Patrick was born in Roman Britain, not Ireland, in the late fourth century. He was kidnapped at age 16 and taken to Ireland as a slave. Patrick escaped Ireland and returned to Roman Britain. He returned to Ireland in the year 432 to convert the Irish to Christianity.
By the time of his death, Patrick had established monasteries, churches and schools. He was known to use the shamrock to teach the Holy Trinity. One of the many legends about Saint Patrick is that he drove all the snakes out of Ireland. When Irish immigrants came to America they started turning the holiday into a celebration of everything Irish, including its whiskeys.
Boston, a popular location for resettlement of Irish immigrants. held its first St Patrick’s Day Parade in 1737. Since 1962, Chicago has colored its river green in honor of the Irish holiday. Which reminds me of a true story shared by my husband Ron.
Ron was in Boston on a construction job. Ron was unaware of how dedicated the Bostonians were to the Irish holiday. Striding into a bar, pardon me, a temporary Irish Pub, he had his share of beers and soon neglected looking at the contents in his beer mug. When nature called, he retreated to the men’s room. Soon a loud howl came forth from the men’s, or laddie’s room, that caused everyone to stop drinking, for a minute. Ron ran out and told everyone in ear shot that he was dying. It seemed he was urinating green liquid.
After a good laugh by all, other than Ron, it was explained to him that they began substituting regular beer with green beer after a certain hour on the seventeenth. The incident left a colorful impression on him. I did a practice run over Ireland a few years back. When I landed in Dublin, I was so tired from the trip I thought I really did see the wee leprechauns as they headed off to the end of the rainbow to shovel up some gold. I had always dreamed of putting my feet on the Emerald Isle and the rolling hills of green did not disappoint.
I had heard old Irish songs and stories since I was a young lass. My beloved Grandpa Day’s family name was originally O’Day, but when his ancestors left Ireland due to the potato famine they were not warmly welcomed when they landed on Ellis Island. So, like many others, they shortened their name to be more accepted by the people of the time.
Grandpa Day counted the days until St Paddy’s Day when everyone seemed to want to be Irish. Every bar across the country was an Irish Pub for twenty-four magical hours. He sometimes would practice his drinking weeks ahead of time, mug up, whiskey down, mug up again, and repeat as long as he could. It was at these times that his stories of Irish legends got particularly colorful (green, of course).
Among his repertoire of stories were, of course, some about St Patrick. He loved to retell the story of the Saint driving the dreaded snakes out of Ireland. Of course, he would add, not all the snakes were the kind who slithered on their belly. Oh No. The Saint, he also drove out some snakes who walked on two feet and who spoke with a long-slit tongue that spewed out lies. Now these snakes our Saint turned into a putrid fog that made hissing sounds as it dissipated and then was no more.
After leaving me with that cheerful image, my grandpa would once more sing the most famous Irish tune next to “Oh Danny Boy.” “When Irish eyes are smiling, Sure it’s like a morn in spring, in the lilt of Irish laughter, you can hear the angel sing.”
May Saint Patrick’s Day bring you good luck and good cheer, but be sure and look out for the mugs of green beer.