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.
By 23991 David Chee (RMC 2008)
There are vacations, and then there are road trips. In a typical vacation, the journey is short, and lacks spontaneity. Elements of challenge and adventure are absent. The path less traveled is not taken, and risks are avoided. A road trip, by contrast, is a journey of uncertainties. It involves leaving your comfort zone and flying by the seat of your pants. It goes against the grain.
This past summer, 24074 John Im (RMC 2008) and I spent the month of July traveling across western North America on what can only be described as the ultimate road trip. As outdoors enthusiasts, we were more interested in exploring the mountains, forests, and deserts of the continent, rather than wandering around the urban sprawl of the cities. We cooked our own food, surfed the ocean, squeezed in Cross-Fit workouts whenever possible, and took the time to enjoy the natural wonders of North America. There was no GPS, and (almost) no hotels. We spent our time in the wilderness camping out underneath the stars, took refuge in the hospitality that was offered to us, and tamed the jungles of Las Vegas (A road trip becomes the ultimate road trip with a stop at Vegas).
The 11,000-km journey extended across two provinces, and seven American states. The trip began in Edmonton, continuing through the Canadian Rockies to Vancouver. We then followed U.S. Route 101 from Seattle, Wash., south along the entire U.S. Pacific Coast. Scaling giant sand dunes in Oregon, to catching waves on the rough and rocky Malibu coast, we definitely had our fill of (mis)adventure. Driving along the Oregon coast is riveting, the curves are tight, the cliffs are steep and deadly, and the ocean is endless. We arrived at our destination just north of Reedsport, Ore., in the evening, with a few hours of daylight to spare. Not knowing much about sand dunes, we drove onto a sandy cliff, and disembarked for dune exploration. Unfortunately, shorts and a t-shirt didn’t offer much protection against the howling 30 knot winds, and we were tamed by the stinging blasts of sand. The next day we stopped at the world’s largest sea lion cave, and returned back to the dunes. This time, we arrived prepared. With sand protection, goggles, and of course a dune buggy, we subsequently tamed the dunes.
The Redwood Forest, near California’s border with Oregon, contains the largest collection of redwood trees in the world. Not only are the trees very old, they are gigantic and surrounded by lush vegetation. The giant ferns, and abundant wildlife make the Redwood Forest seem like it belongs in Jurassic Park. Lt. Im and I quenched our thirst for fitness here, Cross-Fitting on ancient tree stumps for box jumps, tree branches for chin-ups, and running along the meandering forest trails. In this oxygen rich environment, novice athletes will have no trouble, and experienced athletes will feel bulletproof.
We proceeded east to Lassen Volcanic Park, which is peppered with hydrothermal and geothermal features, making it one of the most unique places in North America. From sulfur springs to mud pots, and lava beds, there is no shortage of interesting things to see. We found a good way to experience the park is by running one of the mountain trails. Parking the car at the visitor centre, we laced up a good pair of sneakers, and jogged the trail down to Bumpass Hell. Travel on the trail is actually not recommended; a slip off the side of the cliff could prove fatal. The slippery snow covered trail descends down semi-mountainous terrain, around giant boulders, and snakes through a forest of pine trees, to one of the main highlights of the park – Bumpass Hell. It contains many thermal vents, steaming pools of water, and colourful patches of mineral stained snow.
We left Lassen, Calif., following a winding two lane highway through the ranges of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, towards the Mojave desert. Our next destination was the hottest and lowest point in North America, the Badwater basin of Death Valley. After gassing up at a small outpost in Jawbone Canyon, Calif., we set off to explore some of the 13,628-sq km park. Taking extra gas and a plentiful supply of water, it took two full days. We drove from Panamint Springs, on the western edge of the park, to Stovepipe Wells, via the remote backcountry desert trails. During the day, the sun-scorched terrain of Death Valley is extremely harsh, but it offers a great number of places to explore. We found hidden caves along the Armagosa Mountain range, and walked across superheated salt flats. At night, the park transformed itself into a completely different world. Cottontail rabbits, rattlesnakes, and scorpions are just a few of the many creatures that emerge under the cover of darkness. With not a drop of water left, needless to say, Death Valley kept us busy and exhausted enough to skip the Cross-Fit of the day. Making our way back to Highway 101, we continued to San Diego, Calif., the southern most extent of the road trip. Precluded from crossing the border into Mexico, we turned east, driving across Arizona’s Sonora desert, and through Navajo country in New Mexico. Setting our sights north to Alberta, we traversed the Great Plains in Colorado, and crossed the empty Wyoming countryside on our way back home. At many instances throughout the road trip, I couldn’t help but consider the hardships endured by the early explorers such as Capt. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, during the Corps of Discovery. On their mission of exploration, they, too, at times must have felt insignificant alongside some of the most awe-inspiring places on the continent.
California’s national parks are fantastic places to explore, camp out, and enjoy nature. The Pacific Northwest offers similar opportunities to satisfy the outdoorsman’s hunger for adventure. Next year, if you have difficulty deciding how to spend block leave, consider embarking on a road trip. This means going off the grid. Leave the big city comforts and convenience behind, take a few emergency rations, leave an itinerary in the hands of someone trustworthy, and journey into the rugged, unpredictable, and breathtaking wilderness of North America.
2x Digital Cameras
1x Disposable Camera (MIA)
1x Sea Lion
1x Off-road Tire
1x Cottontail Rabbit
1x Kit Fox
1x Awesome Road Trip
Great video, great song!