My earliest recollection of St. Patrick’s Day is that of our mother sending us out early in the morning to pick the shamrock to send to America. We were given the following instructions "make sure it’s the shamrock and not the clover and get it from the top of Brett’s ditch". Then it was set out to dry, later wrapped in newspaper and placed in an envelope and mailed to the United States.
On St. Patrick’s Day, we all went to Church and wore our shamrock. The neighbours would all meet either in someone’s house or in the local pub to "Wet the Shamrock". The men would all stay in the pub but the women would retreat to the "snug" (a small room off the bar with no windows). Nobody could see them or know if they were having a drink or not. We loved to go along as we always got minerals (soda) and sweets. There was no parade in our town at the time, it started many years later.
The first story I learned about St. Patrick was from our "Low Infants" teacher, Miss Mulligan. She gave it to us from a big blackboard. One side showed Patrick arriving in Ireland as a slave. His job was to tend sheep for his captor named Milchu.
The other side showed St. Patrick returning to Ireland to convert the people; she made sure we would remember the story of the shamrock he held in his hand "3 leaves on one stem"/"3 Persons in One God". She told us to always remember it was a symbol of our Faith; we all loved Miss Mulligan as she would bring us up around the fire and tell us stories. We were only 4 years old but I would say everyone still remembers them.
My first St. Patrick’s Day in Philadelphia was 1962. It was completely different, there was so much celebrating; everyone wore hats, buttons and green all over. There was much more emphasis on the celebrating rather than the religious side - whereas in Ireland it was opposite.
I have marched in every St. Patrick’s Day Parade since arriving (with the exception of 1964 when I was at Home) and I always start off with Mass and wear my shamrock.
We usually start off on the 17th at Judge Jimmy Lynn’s breakfast at the Plough & Stars, then over to the Irish Memorial for the lovely celebration honoring the victims of "An Gorta Mor". After that we head to the Irish Centre for Mass, lunch, music and camaraderie with all our friends.
Oh my, oh my, I am getting tired already just thinking about it, but I love every minute of it; after all it’s our National Holiday.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day Everyone.
Attracta Moffitt O’Malley (formerly of Charlestown, Co. Mayo), Philadelphia