There is an endless debate among Irish Jews about how to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. The feast day, named after Saint Patrick who is fabled to have driven the snakes out of Ireland, is also celebrated as a day of Irish pride around the world. Recently, in a Facebook group (all great debates seem to start on Facebook), the question was asked if Jews were “allowed” to celebrate Pat’s day. Less knowledgeable folks cried out in horror that a Jew would even think of celebrating such a goyish holiday. For SHAME that any upstanding yid would want to partake in such drunken debauchery.
Unless, you know…that yid happens to be Irish.
My friend Gavriela Rivka has her own Irish immigrant seder that doesn’t involve green beer or green bagels or any other dyed green food. So what’s an Irish yid to do, we don’t go to mass and we certainly don’t want to celebrate the mission work that Patrick did; but the holiday is so culturally important to the Irish that it feels strange for many of us to let March 17th pass without doing something special.
The color green has been associated with Ireland since the 1640s and the phrase wearing of the green applies to bedecking oneself in green on Saint Patrick’s Day. Wearing of the green also refers to the supporters of the Irish Rebellion of 1798 who wore green clothes, ribbons and hatpins as a symbol of uprising against British rule.
If you’ve ever been to Ireland you’ll understand why green is associated with the Irish. Forty shades of green is not an exaggeration.
Listening to Irish Music
Personally, I loved the Irish classics. On the One Road, Black Velvet Band, and the Pub with No Beer are some of my favorites. It shouldn’t be hard to find Irish music online, just skip over to your favorite streaming music website and type in Irish or pub music and you’ll be rewarded with some truly heartfelt ballads and some upbeat jigs.
Cook Irish Food
You can find any recipe online for Irish stew or corned beef and cabbage, but here are a couple really delicious dairy Irish side dishes that I like to make and a bonus dessert drink!
Rarebit (pronounced rabbit) is basically and open faced grilled cheese with chopped pickles.
2 cups cheese
2 T of butter
¼ cup of milk
small splash of apple cider vinegar
teaspoon of dry mustard
sliced bread (4 – 6 depending on size)
1. Warm up your broiler, put some cheese, butter and milk into a pot on top of the stove and stir until smooth. Add the vinegar and dry mustard and stir in to season the sauce
2. Toast one side of the bread in the broiler (watch that it doesn’t burn), then turn the toast over (cooked side down) on a baking sheet and pour the sauce over the toast and cook for 2 – 3 minutes until browned a little
3. Sprinkle the chopped pickles on top and serve as a snack or appetizer
Champ is basically mashed potatoes with chive and then a volcano of butter in the middle
8 russet potatoes
a lot of chives chopped
salt and pepper
a stick of butter melted
1. Boil the potatoes until tender.
2. Mash the potatoes with milk until you get desired consistency and then stir in salt, pepper and chives.
3. Pile up the potatoes in a large bowl and create a well in the center. Pour the melted butter into the center of the well. Serve as a side dish
2 cups of whole milk
½ cup whiskey
2 T honey
1/8 t ginger
dash of cinnamon for garnish
Warm all of the ingredients in a small saucepan and stir slowly. Do not let the mixture boil, whisk briskly to create froth. Pour into two mugs and serve with a dash of cinnamon.
One of my family traditions that I didn’t realize was so so Irish until I went to Ireland was story telling. After dinner, sit around and tell stories of the past, humorous stories, stories of love. Stories that are embellished are particularly appealing. Tell jokes and sing songs together. This tradition helps you connect with friends and family.
Irish Symbolism – (At Your Own Risk)
People often choose to wear something with shamrocks on Saint Patrick’s Day as well. The shamrock originally was a symbol of the trinity (Google it if you don’t know what I mean). The shamrock has nothing to do with luck. That’s a four leaf clover has a totally different symbolism. Today, the shamrock is another symbol that stands for pride in Ireland, but if the history makes you uncomfortable you have another option.
The harp is another symbol of Ireland. As early as the 6th century the harp has been a symbol of Ireland. It is said that the high king Brian Boru played a harp. The harp is still a political symbol in Ireland and you will see many left facing harps in the plasterwork on Irish government buildings.
You’ll only see the right facing harp on a Guinness label.
The truth is that there is no right or wrong way to show your Irish pride. I often find myself explaining why I feel so connected to Ireland. I often say “I just do” because it’s so personal. Let your celebration be as individual as you like.
Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit!
In addition to writing for JN, Tzipi also works as a birth and post partum doula. She currently lives in New Jersey with her husband and daughter. This is the third sentence in this paragraph.
Header image courtesy of Pixabay.