Monday, March 10, 2008

Oh Danny Joy

Shaun Clancy, keeper of Foley's Pub in New York City, banned "Danny Boy" from his establishment for the next few weeks. Clancy says the song, immensely popular with Irish Americans, shouldn't be played on St. Patrick's Day because it is a depressing tale of longing and loss. I loved this story because after years of mindlessly listening to this funeral dirge on a day of celebration, Clancy lowered the boom. Imagining yet one more St. Patrick's Day of customers singing mornfully "And if you come, When all the flowers are dying, And I am dead, as dead I well may be," Clancy pre-emptively shouted "cut, cut, stop the madness, give me Star of the County Down."

Now that I've got your Irish up, why do we celebrate St. Patrick's Day at all ? Something about snakes, right ? Well there's more to it than that. St. Patrick was born in Britain in 391 AD. At the age of 16, he was kidnapped and enslaved by raiders and taken to Ireland, where he herded sheep for 6 years. Isolated from the world, he turned to daily prayer for sustenance. He eventually escaped and returned to England, where he studied religion for 15 years. He then came back to Ireland and accelerated the introduction of Christianity. A practical man, he incorporated the sun, which Irish pagans worshipped, into a Christian cross, creating what is still known today as the Celtic Cross. And why on March 17 ? Well, you see, that's the Feast Day for St. Patrick, believed to be the date of his death in 460 AD. Tired of corn beef and cabbage ? I have a recipe for Ballymaloe Irish Stew. Had enough of NYC's St. Patrick's Day parade ? Boston and Dublin are obvious alternatives, but two of the best celebrations are in Savannah, Georgia and Butte, Montana.

Am I a Hibernophile who Googled the whole day to find all this information ? No, I spent about 8 minutes on the Web Guide to St. Patrick's Day. Drop in for a visit and before you know it, you'll be the one railing against incongruent "traditions" and shouting "cut, cut, ..." at a St. Patrick's Day celebration of your own.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Good on him. And anyway, in my Celtic travels the other day I learned that "Danny Boy" was written by an Englishman!