Friday, January 31, 2014

March 17 Celebrates Many Things

St. Patrick's Day,
Evacuation Day,
& the Start of Spring!

Most people know March 15 is St. Patrick's Day and in some locales it is a recognized holiday with big parades. Few know much about the saint, except that he lived in Ireland a long time ago.

But I learned there are other interesting things associated with that day.

As a child, my mom (first-generation Irish born here) taught us about St. Patrick and each year we proudly carried an Irish flag and genuine shamrock to school on March 17, until one year. That year I no longer walked to the neighborhood school, but commuted to Boston, Massachusetts, every day. The trip took over an hour due to heavy traffic and waiting for the two buses, train, and then another bus. My schoolmates were nearly all of Irish descent.

After a while at the Boston school there was a mastery of the quirkiness of the old school building with its hundred-year-old desks, creaky wooden floors, mimeographed books, ink wells, and ancient water bubblers.

Eventually we neared mid-March. Our assignment was a written one, a contest, and the best essay could win a lot of money! With all the St. Patrick things at home it seemed an easy project. But the topic was not St. Patrick, it was "Evacuation Day." Hmmm, What was that?

The local librarian, not in Boston, found a one-sentence reference to Boston's Evacuation Day and it has nothing to do with St. Patrick, but everything Irish. The day commemorates George Washington driving the British forces out of Boston in 1776 at the beginning of the American Revolution. With Boston's large Irish population, the 17th of March was an obvious choice to establish the city's holiday in 1901. By 1941 the holiday was observed in all of Suffolk County by government offices and schools, but not most private businesses.

However, by 2010 it was decided that Evacuation Day should no longer be a holiday because of the expense of paying state and municipal workers for an extra day off. So March 17 has reverted to St Patrick once again.

Family traditions can be misunderstood and strange, too. One grandfather declared that spring always started on St. Patrick' day. At that date I always pulled out my summer clothes, even amid the snow, and was never reprimanded. A feat that always amazed me! Decades later and hundreds of miles away, I still believe grandpa was right because for a few days around March 17 robins flood this neighborhood during their migration.

Gramps told a lot of tales. Me? I tell a few and I make jewelry. Here are some St. Patrick's day earrings I made. More photos and sale info is available if you click the links.