My earliest memories of St. Patrick’s Day involve pinches, usually from obnoxious little boys who were overly zealous about enforcing the penalty for not wearing green on March 17. Fortunately, my teacher at the time had those unaware of the custom make shamrocks of green construction paper, which afforded us some protection once we pinned them to our clothes!
Despite this inauspicious beginning, I’ve become increasingly fond of St. Patrick’s Day over the years. Maybe it’s the green and gold decorations that seem to remind us that spring really is just around the corner. Maybe it’s the music that invariably sets my toes tapping or has me humming along, whether it’s skirling pipes, rumbling bodhrans, lilting fiddles, or thrumming harps. Maybe it’s the warm, inclusive spirit that declares that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. Maybe it’s the green beer. Okay, maybe not the last, since I’ve never been much of a drinker.
St. Patrick with Shamrock, stained glass window at St. Benin's Church, Ireland, Photo by Andreas F. Borchert
So, in the spirit of the day, here are ten (non-alcoholic) things to put a spring in your step on March 17.
1. The Chieftains: ‘Nough said. These guys have become synonymous with Irish traditional music. Fifty years after their formation, despite numerous changes to their line-up (Paddy Moloney is the last original member still with the band), their sound is as exuberant and intoxicating as ever.
2. Clannad: This band provided the soundtrack for the British TV series, Robin of Sherwood, which is how I first discovered their work. Their sound--a mix of folk, rock, and New Age--is haunting. harmonious, and uniquely their own. (Robin of Sherwood soundtrack album, right)
3. The In Death series: Highly addictive, especially for readers like me who love romantic suspense. But one of the main draws is Roarke, the Irish thief turned self-made billionaire, who is married to ace murder cop, Eve Dallas. Handsome, clever, and charismatic, Roarke frequently serves as a civilian consultant in Eve’s cases, but it’s his passion for and devotion to Eve herself that makes him such an appealing romantic lead. My favorite of the series so far is Portrait in Death, which sends Roarke on a quest to uncover the truth of his past, which ultimately leads him back to Ireland--and a family he never knew existed.
4. The Irish R. M.: Based on a series of short stories by Irish cousins Edith Œnone Somerville and Violet Martin Ross, this miniseries about a fish-out-of-water Englishman serving as a resident magistrate in Ireland and coping with the ways and eccentricities of his Irish neighbors is sheer fun. Peter Bowles plays the occasionally stuffy but decent to the bone Major Sinclair Yeates, Bryan Murray the raffish Flurry Knox, local master of foxhounds, who is both Sinclair’s closest friend and occasional nemesis. There are two delightful romances that unfold in the course of the series too, between Sinclair and his fiancée, Philippa, and Flurry and his cousin, Sally, whose aristocratic parents oppose their relationship. Fortunately, love and the luck of the Irish find a way. (The episodes “O Love, O Fire!” and “The Aussolas Martin Cat” are especially strong).
5. Irish soda bread: Some of the supermarkets and local bakeries start carrying this in March. Quality tends to vary, but a thick slice of raisin-studded soda bread, spread with sweet butter, is a delicious treat in the morning or afternoon--accompanied by a strong cup of tea, of course!
7. Riverdance: I’m leaving it up to individual taste to decide whether Michael Flatley or Colin Dunne makes a better lead in this show. Both are incredibly talented, and the Dublin and New York City productions breathtaking to watch: the music, the spectacle, the intricate footwork, the uncanny unison of the dancers--all of it! I do have a slight personal preference for the New York production because the show’s concept seems more fully developed there.
A happy ending by any band’s standards!
, is the ultimate drawing room comedy, and his fairy tales, such as “The Happy Prince” and “The Selfish Giant,”are exquisitely written and capable of packing an emotional wallop. (Photo of Wilde in happier times, left)
10. William Butler Yeats: If the Chieftains are the quintessential Irish band, and Wilde the quintessential Irish wit, Yeats is the quintessential Irish poet. Whether you prefer his early, more lyrical verse or his later, more experimental poems, his work is always vivid, evocative, musical, and thought-provoking. “The Cap and Bells” is a personal favorite of mine, which Yeats described as “the way to win a lady”--namely, by entrusting her not merely with one’s heart and soul but with the deepest, truest part of one’s self.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone! Is there anything that gives you particular pleasure on March 17?