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Everybody’s Irish

Celebrating all cultures, traditions and faiths

Saint Patrick's Day

Adapted from Edward Grinnan’s Editor’s Note for the March 2018 issue of Guideposts. If you’d like to subscribe, click here.

My mother always wore green on St. Patrick’s Day. Of course she wore the color fairly often to complement her grass-green eyes, not that she would ever confess to such vanity. Not a Rossiter!

My father didn’t always wear green, even though his forebears came from County Offaly. He took a slightly dim view of the holiday for what he saw as its pernicious attitude toward overindulgence. The green beer and ostentatious parades and leprechaun hats offended his pious sensibilities. He believed celebrating the life of a saint should be the solemn center of the feast day, which indeed it is in Ireland, where the observance is more subdued. Dad was a stubborn traditionalist about his faith, as stubborn as only an Irishman can be, I suppose. After Vatican II, when the liturgical language was switched from Latin to the local dialect, he would come home after church on Sunday, retreat behind closed doors and listen to a recording of the old Latin Mass, as if he’d somehow been deprived of a full worship experience. Me? I was an altar boy. I was glad I didn’t have to memorize all that confusing Latin anymore.

Mom always made sure I had something green to wear to school, usually 
a sweater since winter was still roaring in Michigan in mid-March. We’d moved to Michigan from Philadelphia, and I was the first kid in my extended family to attend public schools, which were first-rate in our burgeoning suburban town. I’m sure there were gasps when my parents revealed this defection to the relatives back east.

What I remember about my first St. Patty’s in public school was the unexpected wearin’ o’ the green. The Jewish kids wore green, the Asian kids wore green, even the twins from India, Sanjay and Sanjana, wore some green. At first this puzzled me. Were they making fun of me? Some of these kids weren’t even Christian. And yet, as my mom explained when I got home, they honored the tradition of my culture. Their families and ancestors too had come from faraway lands, and with them brought their own faith and traditions to be shared and celebrated. It was all part of being an American, my first lesson that green was only one color in the brilliant mosaic that is our country.

So for all you Irish-for-a-day out there, thank you. I hope to return the compliment. 

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