Friday, March 17, 2006


I love Irish people. Some of my best friends are Irish. God bless the Irish and their homeland, Ireland. Lucky Charms is the best concoction of oats and sugar ever poured into wax paper bags and sealed into colorful cardboard boxes with plastic prizes at the bottom, wrapped in cellophane. But St. Patrick’s Day is the most asinine holiday on the calendar.

Any true Irish person—any noble Irish person—distances him or herself from this absurd day. It is named after a person who, at sixteen years of age, got carried away from his homeland, Britain, by Irish marauders. He passed his captivity as a herdsman near a mountain called Slemish. He saw visions (uh-oh) in which he was urged to escape to the north coast of Gaul and become an ordained deacon (double uh-oh). The encyclopedia does not say who spoke to him in the vision, but one can only assume that it was a leprechaun.

leprechaun (lep re kon), n. Irish Folklore. A pygmy, sprite, or goblin.

ST. PATRICK: What are you?

LEPRECHAUN: I am a pygmy and a goblin, but you can call me a sprite. Yes, I prefer that. A sprite, if you please.

ST. PATRICK: What do you want me to do—sprite?

LEPRECHAUN: I want you to escape to the north coast of Gaul and become an ordained deacon. Become learned in the ways of institutional religion. And don’t forget to condemn people and look for relics.

ST. PATRICK: At once, Sprite! Is that all?

LEPRECHAUN: (becoming furious) Well, of course not! I want you to begin experimenting with compressed marshmallows and geometric figures!

ST. PATRICK: Yes, my Lord!

LEPRECHAUN: Yes, my Sprite!

ST. PATRICK: Forgive me, my Lord!

According to the encyclopedia, “[St. Patrick’s] use of the shamrock as an illustration of the Trinity led to its being regarded as the national Irish symbol. A strange chant of his, called the Lorica, is preserved in the Liber Huynorum.” That the Trinity is a false doctrine unknown to Scripture makes me wish for the shamrock a more noble beginning. (Fun game you can play at home: Guess the root word of “shamrock.”) Can’t we just say it illustrates the number o’ people able to make sense o’ St. Patrick’s Day?

Speaking o’ o’, without this famous contraction in “the luck o’ the Irish,” we are left with: “the luck of the Irish,” which is too literal, too sad, and too untrue for anyone’s palate. The Irish are no luckier than any other peoples. In fact, if the Great Potato Famine and the long history of bloodshed mean aught, the Irish are unluckier than most. This contraction, ‘o, is paramount to the furtherance of the Irish myth. It’s the grammatical equivalent of pixie dust. Anything becomes possible when you drop an “f” and apply yourself stupendously at the pub.

Which must be how the famous Blarney Stone came about. At Blarney Castle in the town of Blarney in County Cork, Ireland, is an inscribed slab. No ordinary slab, this. Did you not hear? I said it was inscribed. Are you still not in awe of it? Then I unsheathe my ace: It is “near the top of one of the walls.” (!) According to legend, one who kisses this stone is thereupon endowed with the gift of eloquence and persuasive flattery. This answers, for me, a mystery. Whoever convinced our government to calendarize St. Patrick’s Day and make Irish and non-Irish people alike wear green clothes and send each other hokey cards, must have smooched that rock smooth.

My youngest son came home from school today and said there was a new tradition: anyone not wearing green became susceptible to a pinch. “A pinch where?” I asked.

He said, “Anywhere.”

I apprised his clothing. “You’re not wearing any green. Did they pinch you?”

He said, “I’ve got it covered, Dad,” and he unveiled the tops of his boxer shorts, which were covered with palm trees.

“Happy St. Patrick’s Day,” I said.

“And the same to you, Pops.”

© 2006 by Martin Zender