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


6 thoughts on “Lucky

  1. That’s so funny. I never liked the traditional St. Pat’s day meal of boiled corned beef and cabbage! My only real concession to the holiday is that I wear my green and my “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” button. Maybe one day I’ll happen upon George Clooney on St. Patrick’s Day!


  2. Trish Infanger

    As your cousin who is actually more Irish (percentage-wise) than you, I’ve been contemplating this post all day. My perception of “Irish luck” stems from my first visit to the Emerald Isle in 1984. This was the trip when my brother Paul and I took your Uncle Eddie on his first trip abroad to England and Ireland the year after Mom died.

    When we got to Ireland after two weeks in England, the disparity in the two countries was immediate. (Although, I do remember Paul saying, “well maybe the food is better. On occasion, it was, thanks to great fish/seafood and lamb when it was prepared correctly!) While my Father was smitten with everything about Ireland, my brother and I were aghast at the poverty, complete lack of infrastructure, the dubious transportation schedules, and overall “Third World” feel of the place. Add a bizarre incident when Paul was not allowed into a music club because he had tennis shoes on (really? A look around produced a huge glimpse of shanties!) and well, our vantage point of “luck” completely changed.

    As our ferry pulled out of the dock in Dublin to return back to the UK for our flight out (Dad stayed behind for another 10 days or so) Paul looked at me and said, “Well, the ‘luckiest’ thing that ever happened to us is our relatives got the hell out of this place!”

    The real “luck” of the trip, though, was the transformation of Ed Infanger, my Father and your Uncle. That trip, in retrospect, was a real miracle. When Dad returned home, the Western Electric offered him the golden parachute – truly my Dad’s own pot-of-gold! Having come off his first big trip of a lifetime, he immediately started to plan his next trip to Europe. However, he was in dire need of a tune-up. Triple bypass surgery, four months of recovery and the recruitment of a travel partner (Me!) later, we hoisted on our backpacks and took on the German-speaking lands of the Continent for two months. I returned home and Dad spent another month in Ireland. His passion for the place transformed him into a fearless world traveler. Twenty trips (approximately five total years) and 26 years later, he left the planet – but not without scouring the entire European continent including Russia under the Iron Curtain.

    How lucky we were to have taken that first trip! After being widowed, he found a new lease on life and never looked back. Dad planned his trips meticulously and became such a savvy traveler that his children NEVER worried about him when he was abroad. In fact, we always looked forward to when he traveled as we knew how happy it made him.

    So, that is the yin and yang of my perception of “Irish luck”. Where I am still in agreement with my brother, I also count my blessings for my own Irish angel, my Mother. Without her help, I doubt that the events would have unraveled quite so smoothly.


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