Friday, March 05, 2010

Laurel McKee Talks St. Patrick's Day

Hello everyone! Newbie author (to Grand Central, anyway!) popping in to say hey. Last month was meant to be my blog debut here, but, well, life had other plans. I'm so happy to join you here for March, though, since one of my favorite holidays is coming up--St. Patrick's Day!

I grew up in a very Irish family where St. Patrick's Day was a big, fun deal every year. At my grandparents' house, they would hang out a big Irish flag (sort of like the giant Greek flag on the garage door in My Big Fat Greek Wedding), my grandmother would make bangers and mash and shepherd's pie along with soda bread, and the grown-ups would drink Guinness and hard apple cider while the Chieftains were on the CD player. Now I usually make it to a parade of some sort and a local pub (where I'm now allowed to drink Guinness myself, though I still really like the ginger beer of my childhood!). In my Daughters of Erin series about the Blacknall sisters and their heroes in late 18th/early 19th century Ireland (book one, Countess of Scandal, which is set around the Uprising of 1798, came out last month!), no one has a St. Patrick's Day party. I'm kinda sad about that, but we can have our own party right here!

St. Patrick's Day is a national holiday in Ireland (a bank holiday in Northern Ireland and a public holiday in the Republic), and strangely it's also a national holiday in Montserrat. Here it's just widely celebrated, though not "official" (I heard Australia has a big party that day, too!). It's officially a feast day celebrating Ireland's patron saint (St. Patrick, AD 385-461). It's a holy day of obligation for Catholics in Ireland, and usually falls during Lent (though if it falls on a Friday, the obligation to abstain from eating meat doesn't apply--lucky for all that corned beef and cabbage!).

St. Patrick's Day was an exclusively religious holiday in Ireland until it became a Public Holiday in 1903 (along with a law requiring pubs to close on March 17--boo! This was repealed in the 1970s). The first parade in the Irish Free State was in 1931, and in 1997, in an effort to use St. Patrick's Day to better showcase Irish culture, the first St. Patrick's Day Festival was held. By 2006 it was 5 days long, with over 675,000 at the 2009 parade.

In the US, the Irish Society of Boston held the first parade here on March 17, 1737. New York City's famous parade began in 1762. In 1780, General Washington allowed his troops a holiday on March 17 "as an act of solidarity with the Irish in their fight for independence." Other early parades in the US include New Orleans (of course! Always on board with a party) in 1809, Savannah in 1813, and Philadelphia in 1771. Today St. Patrick's Day is widely celebrated by Irish and non-Irish alike, with hige parades in places like Seattle, Indianapolis, Chicago, and many, many others. Do you have one in your town?

How do you celebrate the holiday??? (To one commenter on today's post I'll give a copy of Countess of Scandal to celebrate the Month of Being Irish! And be sure and visit my website for more info on the "The Daughters of Erin"...)


Nancy said...

Awe Darlin' We put a wee bit of a southern twist on our celebration. A dab of green in our grits so it resembles green grits and ham with golden scrambled eggs. But we also spread a bit of powder across the table and try to catch the leprechauns footprints as he leaves a bit of green beneath the plates in the mornin' for the children to find.

Awesome post.

Unknown said...

Well I don't celebrate the holiday to much but I do make sure I wear green on that day. There is a lot of Irish blood in me. I have just never been around to many that celebrated the day! PLEASE enter me your book sounds really good!


Pam P said...

I'm not one for corned beef, but look for Irish Soda Bread around St. Pat's Day. Have had the green beer many times out celebrating around the local bars in the past. There's an annual parade in the next town over, and most of the local Irish bar/restaurants will bring in authentic Irish bands. Many years ago, one popular Irish bar owner even got permission from the City to have a huge shamrock painted on the street in front of his place.

Kirsten said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

I love this holiday too! I love wearing green and usually there are local Irish bars celebrating the holiday with green beer, I love going to those! I can't wait to read this series!

Oregon Kimm said...

Typically, I wear green and break out my "Kiss Me I'm Irish" pin. Dinner is corn beef, of course. Also, a whole lot of pinching goes to those who aren't wearing green...

Oregon Kimm

mariska said...

I don't celebrate that holiday. so no special food or drinks on that day. well, maybe a pan of brownies can make it :)

uniquas at ymail dot com

Karen H said...

I'm not Irish and I don't celebrate the holiday. Although, in my younger days I would go with friends to a local pub named 'Paddy McGee's' for an afternoon of drinking, singing, dancing for a rabble rousing time! Great fun back then.

Meljprincess said...

I don't celebrate like I used to (drinking green beer well into the night). However, I do wear something green and say "Top 'o the mornin' to ye" to everyone I see. lol!

Meljprincess AT aol DOT com