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Thursday, March 22, 2012

"Twas a fine St. Paddy's Day, wasn't it?

St. Patrick's Day is more than an Irish holiday. It's a celebration of the end of winter and the coming spring, of life and love, health and happiness and all things Irish. And the non-Irish don't have to be jealous, because everyone is invited to this party. We are all Irish on St. Patrick's Day.

It's funny how some people still feel the need to claim a drop of Irish blood in their veins, however, as if it were a prerequisite to joining the celebration. At the pub you'll hear, "my last name may be Rankowski but my great-grandmother on my mother's side was Irish..."

The McCleery family was in fine form at O'Heaphy's Pub in Kemptville on the 17th, with the men singing along to old Irish ballads performed by Danny (O'Brien) Rembadi. When the tempo picked up, a redheaded girl in green kicked up her heels in a jig. I think we should have this party more than once a year.

I'm "Irish on both sides, all the way back". When I was little, after a summer of playing outside in the sun, my olive skin would tan darker than my friends who had African heritage. I claimed I was Black Irish. Now, this term has a rather ambiguous definition and it isn't used often in Ireland. I always thought my dark hair and tanned skin was a result of the Spanish Armada landing on the shores of Ireland. The mix of Latin and Irish sounds positively passionate and romantic to me. However, it isn't true. The predominant hair and eye colour in Ireland is dark brown, contrary to the Hollywood stereotype of blue-eyed Irish redheads. So I'm just plain Irish Canadian.

We trace our family history back through the Leesons on my father's side and the Cullens on my mother's side. Part of our family comes from The Isle of Man, an island in the Irish Sea. The Manx flag bears the image of the triskell, a Celtic symbol representing water, air and fire. I read that the three running legs signify our bravery, valour, and ability to always land on our feet; no matter how far we fall. I like that one.

Apparently there is a Leeson Street in Dublin. It is home to many "after-hours" clubs, where servers of local pubs and nightclubs go to party after their own places of work close for the night. The Leesons for which the street was named were a brewing family.

Perhaps that explains why I love the taste of beer. A trip to Leeson Street in Ireland is definitely up there on my bucket list.

Having traveled extensively, and having lived among other cultures, I realize that we English-speaking Caucasians of the Western World have many significant differences. I'm sure that when I go to Ireland I will feel as foreign as if I had entered a small village in Africa.

Their lifestyle, interests and priorities will be different from mine. But I would still like to believe that we will share many distinctly Irish traits in common.

Irish people are said to live close to the land. Many of them farm or feel a need to work the earth in a garden. We are also attracted to this trait in others (this explains my falling for the Farmer). Perhaps this is some kind of cellular memory passed down through the generations from a time when our people had to farm in order to survive.

I do enjoy a drink, but not to excess. I love a celebration, and I possess a raucous, self-deprecating sense of humour. I'm not much of a sports fan, but I do love to sing and dance. I don't believe that most Irish people are prone to fisticuffs, although I must admit I have a short temper and tendency to speak without thinking. That reminds me of an old record we used to have, "whenever they got his Irish up...Clancy lowered the boom, boom, boom, boom...."

Maybe the thing I love most about St. Patrick's Day is that the colour green reminds us that spring is near. You can just feel the energy of the earth under your feet.

Tune your radio in to STAR 97.5fm, Kemptville's new station, and enjoy The Big Breakfast morning show with Drew and Diana.

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