Medieval scholars had the following to say about Ireland, “Hibernia hibernescit”. While the fact this statement is in Latin may not be real exciting, the meaning of this phrase has always fascinated me, because it is true in my case. “Hibernia hibernescit” means “Ireland makes all things Irish”. St. Patrick’s Day has always been one of my favorite holidays since I’ve been a kid, and my dream home was in the form of thatch-roofed cottage overlooking Galway Bay.
Being that the holiday grew out of the need for Irish emigrants to celebrate to their Irish heritage, nowadays one of the questions inevitably asked is “Are you Irish”? My reply is always, “It doesn't matter.” In my opinion, the great thing about St. Patrick’s Day is that it provides an opportunity for everybody to be Irish for a day! Everyone has an equal opportunity to enjoy the foot-stomping, hand-clapping energy of a fiddler playing an Irish reel; to refresh the palate with Ireland’s wide array of, … ah, shall we say “beverages”; or to partake in the stoic and magic melancholy of a folk ballad.
Due to life circumstances, I have not managed to partake in a few of the things I normally enjoy this time of the year: watching the Plumbers Union, Local 130 dye the Chicago River green (okay, greener than normal), or enjoying the parades in the city. Though I was disappointed to miss these events, I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t take much to enjoy the Irish spirit, and opportunities to do so are profuse.
One can always obtain a healthy dose of Irish-ness by borrowing a film from the library portraying any part of the Irish Story. I would suggest the following samples of my favorite Irish films if you are in need of some Hibernian fare in this coming week: In the Name of the Father, Far and Away, Michael Collins, and the film my wife and I watch every year at this time, the Quiet Man.
Now if, like me, you will miss out on the various St. Patrick’s Day celebrations throughout Chicagoland, and movies just don't float your boat, all is not lost. Circle your calendar for The Irish American Heritage Festival in July. This event, which will be held July 10-12 in 2009, celebrates everything Irish from tables showcasing artisan crafts and other wares to a tent with live Irish music performances every night of the festival. Throw in an abundance of Irish food and drink, plus games, raffles, and traveling troupes of Irish dancers, and you have you yourself what people in the old country would call a shindig! All proceeds from this festival go to the Irish American Heritage Center (a not-for-profit organization), and you can stay updated with news about this event here. To me, Irish Fest seems like combining the best of St. Patrick's Day with the best of summer - a heady concoction indeed!
And so this St. Patrick's Day or after, I, Joel O'Sawyer, a self-appointed ambassador of the holiday, cordially invite you, wherever you are at, whatever you are doing, no matter your ancestry, to partake in the rich cultural texture of Ireland through sight, sound, or taste. You owe it to yourself!