Monday, March 16, 2015

Happy St. Patrick's Day ~ Submitted by Dave and Kathryn Gunderson

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to One and All
March 17, 2015

The 17th of March, or the “wearing of the green”, as it is often called, has come around again with its promise of the return of spring. It seems appropriate to me, that the coming of spring should be heralded by a festival whose symbolic color is green.

My first experience with St. Patrick’s Day was in my kindergarten year and it was not pleasant a pleasant one. My mom got me all ready for school that morning, but forgot to give me something green to wear.
When I got to school that day, the mean kids that knew about St. Patrick’s Day rushed at me from every side; pinching me as hard as they could.

I was incensed and just getting ready to teach them that they couldn’t treat me that way, when the   teacher came to the rescue. She made me a shamrock, out of green paper, that I wear for protection for that day.
 The teacher also told great stories about St. Patrick’s Day, especially of Leprechauns, often called the little people, and their stunts. She also told how we could get their troves of Gold coins by theft. Those stories made me feel differently about St. Patrice’s Day, and I have loved it “ever since”.

I have often thought about the pinching custom and how out of harmony it is with the spirit of love and forgiveness shown in the life of St. Patrick himself.

I have also wonde-red how “stealing”, the life savings of a poor little old fellow could be justified.

 My next memorable encounter with St. Patrick’s Day was when I was interviewing with Bell Labs. I had a free day in Manhattan on Saturday March 16, 1967, (the day St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated that year) and my friends and I decided to go to the famous St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  I recall, there was a freshly painted green line down the middle of the 5th avenue and that platoon after platoon of Irish American Mounted Police and band after band from the local Irish American Catholic high schools marched down the Avenue. 

I also recall that, there were policeman stationed at about 10 foot intervals all along 5th Avenue to “keep the peace” and that Macys & Gimbals had changed their names to O’Macys & O’Gimbals. Some people had dressed up as Leprechauns and every bar & restaurant in town advertised that green beer was available. Nearly everyone had a badge that read “Kiss Me I’m Irish”.

The flower shops in the subway stations were all selling little cups of live shamrocks. (I was surprised to see that shamrocks were really small clover. I had imagined them to be about 2 inches wide and about 2½ inches tall, like the one my kindergarten teacher had made for me). In any case, everyone assured me that on St. Patrick’s Day everyone is Irish.

One of my good friends at the Labs always wore Orange on St. Patrick’s Day, because his family heritage was from Northern Ireland. He was never harassed about this. People at the Labs seemed to think that “each should be left to their own”.

After moving to New Jersey, I was assigned to make monthly visits to several Mormon Irish American families. I was often invited to enjoy “corned beef and cabbage dinners” with them on the “Great Day”. I always looked forward to this each year.

One of the families I visited even decorated with strings of shamrock shaped lights, (like Christmas lights). They also had bunches of living or stained glass shamrocks decorating their home. Truly it was an occasion to be remembered.

The true story of St. Patrick is a bit vague but it seems that he was born near the west coast of Britain, just across from the Isle of Mann, between 380 & 390 AD; at about the time the Roman Empire was collapsing.

At about age of 16, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and sold into slavery. He remained as a slave for about 6 years, before he could   escape. One account said that he felt that he had committed some sort of sin in his youth, for which his slavery was a just punishment. (I can’t help wondering what kind of sin would have justified 6 years of slavery.)

His father and grandfather were both Christian clerics and after his escape, he also decided to become a priest, and carry the Christian message back to Ireland. After several years of study he was ordained a Bishop and returned to the place, where he had been held as a slave, to bring the great message of Jesus, the message of love, equality and forgiveness.

One of the great stories of his ministry is how he used the tiny shamrock to explain the Trinity.

March 17 461 AD is accepted as the date of his death. His life spanned some 75 years and it was full of service. Since his birth date is unknown, his death date is used to commemorate his great life and service.

So Erin Go Bragh (Ireland Forever) to everyone, wither they are Irish, or only Irish for the day. Let the great message of St. Patrick, the message of love and forgiveness, truly last forever for all of us.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day
to all, to the Irish and
to those who are only 
Irish for the Day,  

David & Kathryn Ann  O’Gunderson

P. S. I think that it is ironic that Ireland’s most
             famous son was actually born in Britain

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