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Good morning Kogs and Kossacks in Dailykosland!

Merry Monday and welcome to the working week...

According to family lore, I am 1/32 Irish.

One of my childhood memories is of my grandmother telling me I had a right to wear green on St. Patrick's Day. Apparently, my grandmother's great-grandmother was the slave of an Irish sea captain, who freed her, married her, and had children with her. So if you count back the fractions, my grandmother's grandmother was 1/2 Irish, my grandmother's mother was 1/4 Irish, my grandmother was 1/8, my mom 1/16... and then me.

Before I was old enough to know what slavery was, or miscegenation, or question whether they were ever actually legally married, I loved telling that story and seeing the stunned looks on the faces of my elementary school teachers as we cut shamrocks out of green construction paper to put on the classroom windows.

I arrived in Boston in 1974, so sheltered about ethnic identities that I had no idea there were lots of people of Irish heritage living in Boston, or that St. Patrick's Day was a big deal here. When I heard the term "Black Irish" I thought they were talking about me! I was blissfully ignorant about stereotypes and turf wars, but I learned fast. Tempers were running high

Anti-busing demonstration in Southie in 1975

because of school integration and busing and open racism was on display. I was Roman Catholic then, but if caught in the wrong place at the wrong time I could not count on "Irish heritage solidarity" to save me! Certain people might not believe me if I told them, might not care even if they did believe me, might even think I was making fun of them. I imagined all kinds of bad reactions. I didn't go around telling people my 1/32 story anymore.

I've lived here almost 40 years and I have never been to the "traditional" parade. In fact, I've only been in Southie a handful of times, and always during the day. The parade is during the day too, but the partying starts the night before and sometimes two nights before. Government workers in Suffolk County, which includes Boston, and the public school systems of Cambridge and Somerville, have a holiday today. Ostensibly it is "Evacuation Day"-- marking the day British troops ended the Siege of Boston during the Revolutionary War. But everyone knows it is just an excuse to have a paid day off on St. Patrick's Day, and when it creates a three day weekend sometimes folks get a little wild. Call me a wimp, but I just stay away.

You hear a lot of "Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day" malarkey around Boston at this time of year. It's a tag line to encourage tourists to come celebrate. But old bigotry dies hard. It has been made clear over and over again that, in the eyes of Wacko Hurley and the organizers of the traditional parade, "Irish (Catholic) family values" excludes certain people. This year Wacko and his friends got pushed harder than ever before, though. When Sam Adams pulled out as a sponsor, because they feared a backlash at one South End bar might lead to a general boycott, it was a big deal. Backward-thinking parade organizers dug in their heels precisely because they can see change is coming, and inevitable, and their insular, exclusionary, literally parochial attitudes cannot prevail much longer.  

Though St. Patrick was, well, a saint, there is very little religious feeling about this holiday around these parts. I know in Ireland it has retained some of that "saint's day" feeling, but in Boston it ain't nothing but a party. I think of it as a saint's day more than most, though. About ten years ago I got involved with liturgy planning for a Celtic Christian worship service. I wrote biographies of the Celtic saints, and I was responsible for choosing the hymns. I grew very fond of the music. When I listen to the great laments in the Southern Harmony American songbook, I can easily hear the Celtic influences.   There is a bar down the street from me where they play live traditional Irish music, and every Monday local musicians sit in for an open session. Today there will be a long line outside from the moment they open. They will make more money today than on New Year's Eve.

No green beer for me, though. Or green Jell-o shots. I don't indulge like I used to. No green donuts--I gave up fried food for Lent! No green cookies or bagels or milkshakes or popcorn, no green waffles or pancakes or cupcakes. No green mashed potatoes, no green eggs and ham. No dyed green food or drink of any kind for me. If I go outside at all today, the most I will do in the way of celebration is to wear my O'bama t-shirt. A far cry from all the lighthearted fun I associate with celebrating the holiday in my childhood, freaking out unsuspecting folks with my family story of being a tiny bit Irish.

Is this just another day where you are? Is there a parade? Green beer? Will there be celebrating all around you while you ignore or boycott it? Did you participate more when you were younger, or while living in another area of the country? Will you join in the music and food and drinking?

Do you celebrate St. Patrick's Day?

Start up soundtrack

An Gaoth Aneas by The Chieftains on Grooveshark

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EVERYONE is welcome, tell us what you're working on,
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Originally posted to Connect! Unite! Act! on Mon Mar 17, 2014 at 07:30 AM PDT.

Also republished by Shamrock American Kossacks.

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