St. Patrick’s Day Family Festivities

At the tender age of 21, along with my future husband Ryan and best friend, I had the opportunity to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah, Georgia, home to one of the nation’s largest celebrations. With nearly 750,000 people in attendance, and complete with green-dyed fountains in the city’s historic district, this celebration includes a parade as well as festivities along River Street. A large mass of party-goers moves along the historic River Street, as individuals make their way to beverage stations, reveling in free entertainment, games, and booths.

The standout memory of this trip for me was the man who brought his pet to the celebration. No, not an Irish Setter. Rather, a six-foot long yellow ball python that was wrapped around his neck and torso. While I’ve never been one to claim a great fear of snakes, I’m much happier with a furry kitten than these scaly creatures. But, waiting in line at the port-a-potties, he turned to me and asked if I could take the animal while he used the facilities. “Will it bite?” I fretted.“Nope! You’ve got the luck of the Irish with you today, lass!” he replied with a wink. And so Ryan emerged from his port-a-potty to find me in line with a large snake draped over my shoulders and a green beer in my hand. Sometimes you just never know what will happen at a St. Paddy’s bash.

St. Patrick’s Day seems to have an uncanny way of bringing people together in merry-making, song, and general togetherness. Perhaps it’s the Irish disposition of easygoing jocularity and mirth, or perhaps it’s the spring fever in the March air, but heralding in the fast-approaching vernal equinox by partaking in this shamrock-bedecked holiday is a truly fun time.

Apart from a few parades in St. Paul, Minnesota, we haven’t ventured into the world of big St. Paddy’s celebrations since. Before the kids were born, we made our way, dressed in green, to our favorite Irish pub in Minneapolis. There, Siobhan, our usual waitress, would take short pauses from her serving duties to join the traditional Irish folk music band onstage, lending her lilting Irish accent to jubilant renditions of time-honored songs from her homeland. Tipping back a pint of Guinness and dining on corned beef and cabbage with a lively crowd was our idea of a perfect St. Paddy’s Day.

“Mommy, St. Patrick’s Day is this weekend,” my daughter informed me just the other day, as if I need a reminder of the perfect reason to blare The Chieftains and Van Morrison and eat shepherd’s pie. I know she’s excited because not only is our town hosting a small parade, but they are also crowning Miss Shamrock. To add to the celebration of St. Patrick himself, the Catholic church in town is having noon mass complete with bagpipers. My husband doesn’t “get” bagpipers, but I find their melodic wailing to be divine.

“Do we get Lucky Charms for breakfast?” my daughter excitedly inquires. Now, I know full well that Lucky Charms doesn’t constitute a traditional Irish breakfast, but she’s seven, so I’ll cut her some slack. My husband and I’ll have the Ulster Fry. “Do we get corned beef and cabbage for supper?” my husband wants to know. My son, a little less concerned about the menu, wonders, “Will there be leprechauns at the parade?”

Our shopping list for this weekend is complete:
Traditional Irish breakfast
Corned beef and champ
Shepherd’s Pie
Our music playlist is all set:
Liam Clancy, U2, the Cranberries, Van Morrison, Mary Black, the Corrs, the Chieftains, Clannad…
Our DVDs are ready to go for Saturday night:
The Secret of Roan Inish
Dancing at Lughnasa

I’m holding out hope that somewhere along our journey of watching the parade and participating in the celebration the kids will get to experience the catchy melodies of the fiddle, tin whistle, flute, bouzouki, bodhrán, Celtic guitar and concertina of a traditional live Irish band. Who doesn’t smile when that type of music is playing?

A very happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all!

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!
(Blessings of St. Patrick’s Day upon ye!)

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