Friday, March 17, 2006

The Luck of Being Irish

I am a Western European mutt. Best I can tell, my genes include a little English, some Danish, a hint of German, a dose of Scottish, a slice of Irish and God knows what else. But it has always been my Celtic roots, the Scots-Irish in me that I’ve felt most connected to.

This is partly because my mother’s maiden name is Stewart, a good Scottish clan name that she has always proudly carried and taught me to proudly carry as well (and now you know why I use three names). I spent several summers of my youth traveling Scotland with my family and always felt a strong affinity for the land and the people.

Until I was in my early twenties, I would answer the question of “what’s your heritage” with “I’m Scottish.” But then came my first St. Patrick’s Day while living in New York City. A friend of mine commented that St. Patty’s was always a wild night and only those with Irish blood dared to venture out. Well, being all of 22 and rather fond of wild nights, I came to the sudden realization that, in reality, I wasn’t just Scottish. I was Irish too.

My paternal grandmother’s maiden name was Sullivan, which is as good an Irish name as Stewart is a Scottish one. So I ventured out on that St. Patrick’s Day night. Decked in green, I ended up in Fiddlesticks, a West Village Irish bar where a Guinness is poured properly and dancing a jig is not an embarrassing act of drunkenness but a rite of passage.

Since then my identification with the Irish has only grown stronger as I’ve studied my ancestor’s many travails and their many accomplishments. There is pride to be found in what those who lived before us were able to overcome. There is pride in being Irish. And a good dose of fun too.

I ended up marrying a woman who is fully half Irish and now we have a son with a good Irish name and a little Irish face and there isn’t a St. Patrick’s day that goes by that I don’t don the green and raise a toast to all the many, many Irish all across the world.

But St. Patty’s Day has never been just for those of us who can trace our blood back to the Emerald Isle. It’s a party where all are welcome.

So I say to you:

Go gcuire Dia an t-ádh ort!

May God put luck on you.

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