Get your Irish straight

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At best, it’s misplaced love for all things Irish.

At worst, it’s cultural appropriation, and wrongly done at that.

We’re quick to correct American stereotypes, even when kindly meant. So if we love feeling Irish — even for a day — shouldn’t we get it right? I asked a Post Falls resident, former Miss Northern Ireland and BBC journalist Katherine Dillon Eckhoff, to help.

Forget the “four-leaf clover.” It’s neither Irish nor good luck, and naught to do with shamrocks. The three-leafed shamrock is a symbol of St. Patrick, who used it to represent the Holy Trinity while converting the Irish. A four-leaf clover is, ironically, an English Druid symbol, as is the pinching-and-luck business (remember, the English aren’t exactly popular in Ireland).

“Kiss me I’m Irish” — No Irish would be caught dead wearing that; “it’s bloody nonsense!”

Corned beef and cabbage? Ugh. They prefer steak, salmon, or roast lamb, rarely eating corned beef and never boiling it.

Call it St. Patrick’s or Paddy’s Day. Patty is short for Patricia, a girl’s name Saint Patrick wouldn’t appreciate. Nor did he drive away any mythical snakes.

And it is all about the revered St. Patrick in Ireland, not drinking green beer, which is for tourists. Traditional Irish celebrations begin with High Mass.

“Children saved up for gold-colored harps, and traditional pennants of green, white, and gold of the Irish flag worn on their coat lapels to morning mass,” Katherine told me. “Saint Patrick’s Day is during Lent, so for those seven weeks, people in Ireland gave up something. When I was a child they observed fasting... Like a mini Ramadan. Men stopped drinking, and children gave up sweets, but on Saint Patrick’s Day we got a dispensation from the Pope to celebrate without interfering with our Lenten pledges.”

Thus with Papal permission, after mass on March 17 the Irish “stuff themselves” with food, candy Easter eggs, plus a drink — the only opportunity during Lent — at the pub, where group singing still tends to spontaneously erupt.

Speaking of music, bagpipes (and tartan kilts) are Scottish. Irish pipes are the Uilleann pipes, played underarm and which sound softer, like Irish St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

“May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow, and may trouble avoid you wherever you go.” — Irish blessing

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Sholeh Patrick wishes everyone a Happy (St.) Patricks’ Day, even those not lucky enough to share the name. Irish blessings and jokes welcome at Sholeh@cdapress.com. (Berni, that means you.)

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