The sparkly green garland and shamrocks are up. My laptop is playing Gaelic Storm as loud as it dares in this quiet office. I’m dreaming of Guinness toucans and honey on soda bread.
It must be St. Paddy’s!
To celebrate this, my favorite holiday, I am reminiscing of past years and green-decked celebrations.
Age 11 – It’s hard to get out of bed despite the smells emanated from the kitchen. Even so, we drag ourselves through early morning routines. Mom has lain out a handmade or adorned sweater at the end of each bed. The older I get, the less ‘cool’ this seems, but she’s put a lot of effort into her work. Finally awake, we fly down the stairs pulling sweaters over our heads as we go. “Top o’ the morning to ya!” we shout down the halls in our best Irish accents. Landing on the kitchen stools, we are suddenly a mess of arms reaching over one another for the biggest slice of soda bread and honey. Mom is a calming force as she manages the bickering and stops us from spilling. The first floor feels like a clover jungle as all the walls and furniture are covered in shamrocks and kelly green. Dad bounds down the stairs wearing his favorite shamrock tie and gives Mom a sweeping kiss. He teases us in his excellent irish accent and heads off to work with a suspicious looking bag. … Hours Later … We’re home from a relatively normal school day and eating chocolate gold coins. Mom gets a mischievous look in her eyes as she calls us from our chocolate stupor in the living room. A peak around the corner reveals a giants red-headed leprechaun in the kitchen! Dad surprised his employees by visiting every single one dressed head-to-toe in a green suit & hat, red wig, and a pot of chocolate gold. We danced around excitedly at his crazy antics. It was one of the most memorable St. Paddy’s Days ever.
Age 13 – It’s my last year as an Irish step dancer. Three years at the Heritage Academy of Irish Dance have been amazing fun. I’m older now and less enchanted by the dances. Every year becomes more about fitting in, and I decide to quit. I’m too old for sweaters hand-adorned with shamrocks and not cool enough not to miss the earlier fun and celebrations. We have a special dance practice this night. Our incredible dance teacher tells us stories about her life in Ireland before she moved to the US.
Age 19 – An old high school friend and I traveled to Dublin to celebrate the big day. We were excited to see how the Irish celebrated, but were somewhat disappointed to find more foreigners in Ireland’s capital than natives. It was freezing cold as we tried to last out the parade. Finally giving up, we popped into the closest pub for Guinness at 10am. The rest of the day was spent wandering the streets and drinking. After dinner we began moving from pub to pub in the Temple Bar area. Every place was packed in disregarding any fire codes. We bought various beers for one another and whatever new friends we’d made. Several pubs had live music with the oldest men passing guitars back and forth and playing tunes the whole place could sing along to. This truely was the experience we were seeking.
Age ALMOST 21 – All of my college roommates and friends meet up in downtown Green Bay at St. Brendan’s. The outdoor tent is packed tight, but we’re all able to fit. My entire family is there to cheer on my younger sister who will be dancing with her Irish dance school. The performance is loud and crowd overwhelming, but we have a great time dancing and drinking (or in my case, not). The band plays long after the dancers leave the stage, and we head indoors to the bar. Neither Tony nor I are 21 yet, but my dad pretends to be both our fathers and gets us in with the rest of our friends. We each only get one drink at the bar, though no one would notice in this crowded room if we’d had more. The night ends way past bar close as we shift back to the college townhouses to drink and pretend to be Irish dancers ourselves. (I won).
Age 22 – I was living in Milwaukee at the time with my cousin. We were practically residents at the local bars and were keen to get out for the holiday. Our family is of Irish ancestry more than anywhere else. Any excuse to celebrate our heritage was enough. No one was willing to come to the East Side except one fellow eastsider. The three of us drank our way into the closest Irish pub could have disappeared completely inside. It was an old house coverted into a bar with an unsteady 2nd floor that somehow managed to stay up as I spent the midnight hour showing-off my old, unforgotten irish step dance skills. Looking back, it’s a bit embarrassing to think of the poor dancing I did in the middle of that dance floor, but my compatriots were all so tossed that they cheered like I was a star.
I am not certain what celebrations Age 24.9 will have. Will we go out to the bars or stay in with Smithwicks and Murphys? I suppose it’ll depend on our energy later. Scott and I are not huge partiers, but there is something of an obligation to go out on this holiday. As always, St. Paddy’s will be a wonderful run-up to my birthday!