Everybody’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!
Although I am not Irish or of Irish descent, the Irish culture, literature, and countryside have always been near and dear to my heart. When I was a little girl, I had many dreams of moss-colored stone cottages at the base of soft rolling emerald green hills, surrounded by serious blue-gray ocean waters, and skies partly shrouded in fading gray fog. It felt familiar. It felt like home.
The place in my dreams seemed very similar to the Ireland I saw in books and movies and photographs, but then, again, I soon discovered, it also seemed very similar to the northwest part of Spain from where my grandparents came. Spain? Ireland? I wasn’t sure, but the place in my dreams was beautiful.
In college, neck deep in research materials at the library, I stumbled upon an interesting bit of information, I learned that my grandparents’ region of Spain, Asturias and Galicia, was settled by the Celts several millennia ago and from there they went on to conquer Ireland.
The triskele, an ancient recognizable Celtic symbol composed of three interlocking spirals, is found everywhere in Asturias and Galicia. The Spaniards from this region have proudly held onto their Celtic traditions for thousands of years, including their beloved bagpipes. This I know to be true because I remember fondly growing up listening to my grandparents’ old Spanish bagpipe record albums. The music always put a smile on my grandparents’ faces, and, as a result, on mine.
Through my tweens, I grew up in a primarily Irish-Italian neighborhood back East. St. Patrick’s Day was always a big deal, with festivities and parades to enjoy. One of the tastiest traditions I remember took place in grade school where parents would bring cakes and cupcakes in various shades of green, often decorated with shamrocks and leprechauns. My favorite, however, was Mrs. Wright’s giant green coconut cake. Although it was not particularly Irish in its culinary roots, it was pure sugar heaven! (My mouth salivates just writing about it.)
As kids, we had this thing about pinching or punching anyone (in the arm) who was not wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day, but I always got away without a punch because of my green eyes. My Irish friends always said that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, but I was all the more so, because I looked the part. And perhaps I did, since I often had my friends’ Irish grandparents ask me if I had Irish relatives because I looked Irish, citing my dark brown reddish hair, green eyes, very fair skin and freckles. Well, I have an uncle who is Irish, does that count?
And, indeed, I did. When I was a couple of months old my Aunt Helen married my Uncle Bill, who was of Irish descent. I remember him clearly in my earliest memories singing me songs and making me laugh. I remember his kindness and gentleness. I remember spending many summers, holidays, and special days with him, my Aunt Helen, and my cousins. And I remember feeling deeply saddened, a couple of decades ago, when I heard he passed away.
As an adult, I often wondered if my Uncle Bill influenced the kind of men to whom I have been attracted my whole life, of Irish descent nearly all of them, or perhaps it is our shared Celtic roots which is responsible for the men in my life and for my earliest beautiful dreams of a land of green and gray, of moss-colored stone cottages, and serious oceans… and for the songs I write, like A Serious Ocean, often sprinkled or dripping with this imagery.
Wherever the Celtic influence in my life comes from, I think of my Uncle Bill often with great affection and warm memories, but I remember him especially and always on St. Patrick’s Day.
Martie Hevia (c) 2010 – All Rights Reserved
Resources: Celtic Connections Between Spain and Ireland
- Spain and Scotland: The Ancient Connections:
“Of these ancient kingdoms, Galicia, of course, is still one of the seven recognized Celtic nations, and the word itself means “The Land of the Gaelic People.” It is from Galicia that Irish origin legends claim that the Irish race sprung towards Ireland.”
- Exploring Celtic Spain:
“The bagpipe music has come to them through their ancient ancestors who, like the Irish and Scots as well as the Bretons in France, were Celtic people. The Celtic language has long been lost here, but Galician music shrill and lively yet with passages of great melancholy, is undeniably Celtic. On record, popular traditional Galician bands like Milladoiro, Xorima and Citania (the last named for a Celtic settlement unearthed in northern Portugal near Guimaraes) might as well be the Irish Planxty or Scottish Relativity for all the difference between them.”
- The Celtic Encyclopedia by Harry Mountain:
“BC 15th Century – The Gaelic-speaking Goidel (Milesian) invaded Ireland from Spain and defeated the Danann at the battle of Taillcenn.”
“BC 1000-650 – Celtic setlers of the Urnfield culture intoduced the potter’s wheel into Spain.”
“BC 800-500 – Urnfield-Hallstatt Celts migrated into northern Spain and Portugal where they contributed to the Castro Culture.”
“BC 6th Century – Celtic artisans of northern Spain and Portugal were carving large sculptures of bulls, boars and bears out of stone.”
In memory of my Uncle Bill… two Irish blessings:
Sung by Dennis Morgan
May the Irish hills caress you.
May her lakes and rivers bless you.
May the luck of the Irish enfold you.
May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you
May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields and,
Until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
Irish or not, top o’ the morning to you and Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Celebrate the day and share the festivities with these Blue Beach Song designs, Irish sayings, blessings & proverbs… and may your home always be too small to hold all your friends!