Native Writes: Birthdays and wearing green


Today is my oldest son’s 56th birthday. That means I am older, as well.

Rich has a great attitude. Asked if he was planning to take the day off work, he said he seldom has taken that day off and will party Friday night.

The next day, Saturday, is St. Patrick’s Day.

When the boys were small, they wore something green to school that day so they wouldn’t get “pinched.”

Yahoo Lifestyle says pinching began as an early 18th-century United States legend. Those wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day were supposedly “invisible” to leprechauns, tiny creatures who would mischievously pinch anyone in sight who was not wearing green.

St. Patrick’s Day celebrants take pinching into their own hands to remind those not wearing green that leprechauns were out and about. Forget the concept that if you weren’t in sight of a leprechaun, you were safe from being pinched. The flip side is, you were probably still going to get pinched by someone.

The tradition is so woven into the holiday that St. Paddy’s Day pinching runs rampant on March 17. Leprechauns have been found in literature as far back as the 13th century.

On St. Patrick’s Day 1962, my first child, two days old, didn’t give a whit about the celebration. At that age, they sleep, soil themselves, cry, eat and go back to sleep. That’s why I laugh when someone says he or she wants to “sleep like a baby.”

The Mother Superior nun who served pregnant women in 1960’s Santa Fe did give a whit. Sister Mary Patrick lived a life of caring and was disappointed my son wasn’t born on March 17. We went home that day and she made sure he was wearing green. A small shamrock, probably cut from a green satin ribbon.

I was hoping to stay for lunch, corned beef and cabbage. I had eaten the meal as a child and thought I’d like to relive some memories.

Sister warned in her Irish brogue, “Aye, but it might give you gas and that could be passed on to the baby in the breast milk, surely making for a miserable child.”

The baby had gas anyway and I hadn’t eaten anything but oatmeal.

According to the Christian Science Monitor. The tradition of corned beef started in the United States when Irish immigrants couldn't afford bacon and corned beef was a cheaper alternative. Sister didn’t mention this, but said she was planning to “glory in” her evening meal.

The day has multiple accessory legends. I think my son was about 20 when I was given a shamrock plant and was told that its three leaves signified the Holy Trinity. Mine took the rest of March in Alamosa and promptly died.

What we do know is that the shamrock is the official symbol for Ireland.History.com says it symbolized spring. In the 17th century, the shamrock became a symbol of Irish nationalism, with many Irish folks wearing the shamrock as a symbol of pride, as well as their stand against the English seizing Irish land and making laws.

I’ll play along Saturday, wear green, “glory in” corned beef and cabbage and celebrate yet another colorful part of our nation’s history.

Let’s keep and respect all the colors of the “melting pot.”

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