Here’s to St. Patrick’s Day! To the celebration of all things Irish, the beer, the food, the music, the green clothes, the accents (even the cheesy fake ones). Here’s to how people are proud of even the slightest drop of Celtic tiger blood flowing through their veins, myself included! I’ll be the first to say that being 1/4 Irish is pretty damn significant. If you don’t have any Irish ancestry, don’t worry, I forgive you. Not everyone can be perfect!
As I’ve grown older, the day has slowly began to take on more significance and it has become personal as well. On one hand, St. Patrick’s Day is a decidedly fun day, but it is also a nostalgic one. For myself it’s a bit of a self reflective day. St. Patrick’s Day reminds me of my own Irish roots, particularly grandfather, and the day reminds me why his memories and legacy are important to me. My Grandpa has been gone since April of 1993, but goddamn, do I miss him.
St. Patrick’s Day is more than just wearing a bit of green here and there or drinking green colored beers. I’ll tell you what it’s about, at least what it is for me. St. Patrick’s day has so much meaning, and on many different levels. Firstly, the day has religious significance. Nothing says Roman Catholic than a day of drinking Guinness and Kilkenny! In the Roman Catholic and Anglican traditions, St. Patrick is the Patron Saint of Ireland and is credited with bringing the Christian faith to the Emerald Isle. They say that St. Patrick used the three leaf clover to explain the doctrinal significance of the Trinity which is a foundational tenet of Christianity.
It’s also a cultural holiday, and a reason to celebrate the traditions that make the Irish people unique, including great music, food (my Mom makes the best Irish stew, pair that stew with a nice cold Guinness and you’re in heaven!). Man, I could go for a bit of that stew right about now.
Thirdly, St. Patrick’s day is historic. The Irish had a pivotal role to play in the history of Canada, and the United States. They were some of the first immigrants to come to the New World, and one can only imagine the hardships the early Irish settlers faced in the cold and barren Canadian hinterland in the 1700s. Not to say that it was any easier settling on the East Coast of the United States, but try spending a winter in Quebec as compared to Boston and you’ll understand very quickly that the Irish experience in Canada was filled with different challenges. The Irish had a huge influence in America, cities like Boston, Chicago and Providence still have large Irish American populations. Presidents Andrew Jackson, Ronald Reagan and JFK all have Irish roots.
A lot of emphasis is placed on Canada’s English, Scottish and French roots – but not so much on the Irish influence. There’s a line in the famous song the “Maple Leaf Forever” that will resonate with Irish Canadians. It goes something like this – the Scottish thistle, the English rose and the Irish shamrock entwine – all important elements to early Canada. Look below at the Canadian Red Ensign, there is an Irish harp in the shield.
The thistle, shamrock, rose entwine
There is a significant Irish Canadian population in Quebec, many Francophone Quebeckers still carry Irish names with them today as thousands young Irish orphans were allowed to keep their ancestral names upon arriving in Canada and adopted by French speaking Canadians in the 1850s.
The Irish were very involved in the history of Canada. Look at the flag of the City of Montréal, one of the oldest cities in North America – a historically francophone city with predominantly French European roots. Do you see the shamrock? It’s a testament to the Irish influence in Montréal as well.
My favorite hockey team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, were originally known as the Toronto St. Patrick’s for a few decades. The Toronto St. Pat’s had these really cool jerseys in the 1920s, they were green and white. The Leafs actually wore St. Pats uniforms as a retro throwback heritage jersey on one St. Patrick’s Day hockey game. You can still buy vintage St. Pat’s gear today. Check out Mats Sundin in a Toronto St. Patricks uniform. If Toronto should ever get a second NHL team – it will have to be named the Toronto St. Patricks. Like Boston and Chicago, there are a lot of Irish in Toronto.
It was difficult being Irish and living in Toronto in the early days of the 19th Century. At that time Toronto was overwhelmingly Protestant and there was blatant discrimination against the poor Irish Catholic immigrants who were new comers to the city. As my grandmother told me years ago – the Irish could barely even get jobs. This all changed towards the 20th century as the Irish began to gain socioeconomic status and power.
The Irish also have a significant military tradition in Canada and the U.K. (Not sure about the States if they have Irish Regiments but there are many, many Irish American veterans). There are several units bearing the historical ‘Irish’ name. Some of these units have since been stood down, and some have merged into larger battalions but their fighting history and tradition continues with them. In Britain, only the Royal Irish Guards and the Royal Irish Regiment remain as first order units. Here are some famous Canadian units:
- The Irish Canadian Rangers
- The Irish Fusiliers of Canada (Vancouver Regiment)
- 121st (Western Irish) Battalion
- 121st (Western Irish) Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force
- 199th (Duchess of Connaught’s Own Irish Rangers) Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force
- 208th (Canadian Irish) Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force
- 218th (Edmonton Irish Guards) Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force
So as you can see, St. Patrick’s Day is much more than simply drinking beer (even though that’s a big part of it). It’s more than a break in Lent. But hey, celebrate the day how you like – Guinness’ and Kilkenny’s for all! Go all out today – have a beer, wear some green, and talk with a cheesy accent, but just remember that there is a lot more meaning to the St. Patrick’s Day than might meet the eye.
AMERICAN UNIVERSITY EAGLES ICE HOCKEY
How about that! Check out AU Hockey’s fresh new look! These cool series of logos were designed by our own Austin Short, one of our team’s goaltenders. We hope to have gear produced shortly. Enjoy, folks!