Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

In Boston, it is a very big deal(history). In fact, the whole week, people have been celebrating, one way or another. We had the Pogues in town for a couple reunion concerts. (Are they still alive?! Yes -- having miraculously cheated death, they are back and still performing rip-roaring Celtic poetry set to music). Now we have dueling parades. There is the Mayor's parade -- downtown and polite. And the Southie parade -- this is the Loyal Order of the Hibernians parade. The one involved with the law suit over whether an Irish-American gay-lesbian group and more recently, a "veterans for peace" group could participate (Wacko Hurley runs this parade separately -- helps you keep the two parades straight, doesn't it?). And of course, there is the St. Patrick's Day Breakfast, where every Massachusetts politician, of whatever ethnicity must show up with rapier wit honed to show off for the press. Politics up here is a blood sport, but we like it to be entertaining as well.

Of course, this is a day off for all government workers in Suffolk County (Boston, Cambridge and Somerville), and all schools close down, with libraries, and many other businesses (but not bars!). But the reason is not that it is St. Patrick's Day -- that would be both sectarian - BAD! and ethnocentric (No Irish Need Apply -- NINA was actually the rule for many jobs here in some older folks' living memory). No, this is EVACUATION DAY. We are celebrating the March 17 in 1776, when George Washington, using cannon captured from Fort Ticonderoga, placed them on Dorchester Heights to threaten the British fleet in Boston Harbor. The British prudently evacuated Boston. It just happens to be the very same day as the saint's day of the patron for the homeland for the largest imigrant group to Boston through the 1800's and into the 20th century -- the Irish! And the Irish take the celebration of their saint's day seriously as a matter of national pride since there were generations when it was a hanging offense in their own land to speak of the saint, wear green or speak their own language (Penal Laws).

St. Patrick was a Roman citizen from Britain kidnaped by Irish pirates in his teens. They held him as a slave while waiting for his family to raise a ransom. Once he got back home to “civilization,” Patrick became a deeply involved Christian and studied for the priesthood - in his writings he says God spoke to him and guided him through visions. Patrick decided to return to convert his former captors. He was so successful as a missionary to the Irish people that he became the bishop of Ireland, essentially battling against the Druids for the hearts of the Irish. The History channel has a bit more about Patrick's life heree in a nice, non-sectarian presentation.

So, here is a little dab of Irish for you before we quite leave St. Patrick's Day entirely:

May those who love us love us.
And those that don't love us,
May God turn their hearts.
And if He doesn't turn their hearts,
May he turn their ankles,
So we'll know them by their limping.

The decoration is actually a needlepoint design from

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