March 17, 2024 Essay: The Blessing of St. Patrick’s Day

Mar 8, 2024

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you and yours! In my family, full of names such as Noonan, Shields, Byrne, Donahue, and Dunion, we take this day rather seriously. There is no question of whether we are getting together but rather a nudging amongst family members to be sure we can all attend the day’s celebration.

My Irish roots have been planted in America for a long time. My grandmother’s grandfather came over to America in the 1880s. However, on both sides, the rest of my Irish ancestors landed in America just after the American Revolutionary War. Despite my family’s many generations in the USA, we are still proudly Irish. Interestingly, according to our DNA, my siblings and I are over 75% Irish, clocking in at 90% Celtic. We did not hop into the melting pot.

My Gran is why we still find joy and connection to our Irish heritage. She loved being Irish. She was born just as the days of No Irish Need Apply were ending in America. Her family was not keen on advertising their heritage, but my Granny, Peggy Shields, was Irish all the way.

She passed down the love of her Irish roots to our family. She instilled in us a fondness of wit and somehow the ability to laugh at things others might find a bit macabre. We understood with little overt instruction that it is good to be Irish.

Each St. Patrick’s Day, we gather as a family at Finn McCool’s in Port Washington, NY. We often take over the entire back room with three generations of my family celebrating together. It is a wonderful day free of the pressure of gift-giving at Christmas or the task of the Thanksgiving meal. We eat loads of Irish soda bread, corned beef, and cabbage. The more traditional of us choose shepherd’s pie or salmon. Of course, the day would not be complete without a nice, slow-poured Guinness.

We all don some version of green or shamrock-laden clothing. The hats and headband, well, they are just too much. This regalia may be why we are relegated to the back room. Our celebration is full of laughter, love, and tradition. I’ve been to the St. Patrick’s Day parades in NYC, Chicago, and Dublin. I’d take our St. Patrick’s Day party at Finn McCool over these parades any day.

I leave you with An Irish Blessing for St. Patrick’s Day:

May the Irish Hills caress you.
May her lakes and rivers bless you.
May the luck of the Irish enfold you.
May the blessing of St. Patrick behold you.

— Kate Noonan, Director of the Interparish Religious Education Program