On St. Patrick’s Day, it seems traditional to wish people “the luck of the Irish.” If you know anything about Irish history, this phrase seems peculiar. What’s lucky about thousands of years of famine, war, occupation and sectarian violence after all? In fact, according to Edward T. O’Donnell, associate professor of History at Holy Cross College and author of 1,000 Things Everyone Should Know About Irish History, the term actually refers to the plethora of Irish miners in the United States who struck gold during the Gold Rush. The implication was that since they were Irish, luck rather than skill was the reason for their success.
On St. Patrick’s Day, however, I do feel lucky. It’s fun to actually be Irish on a day when everyone wants to be. Most people know that the celebratory nature of St. Patrick’s Day is an American invention. In Ireland one might wear a shamrock to morning mass today. The rivers won’t be dyed green, and drunken carousing won’t be the order of the day. Let’s face it. In Ireland, one never needs a holiday as an excuse to visit a pub.
But on this day, I have numerous reasons other than my Irish heritage for feeling lucky. I have a wonderful family, and we are all in reasonably good health. I have food on the table and a roof over my head – and then some. I have a gigantic Irish-Italian hybrid of an extended family. Our family parties are the stuff of legend. All of it is an unearned gift that one might call “luck.”
On St. Patrick’s Day, I wish all my readers, friends and family an Irish blessing:
May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
And the rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of His hand