Sunday, March 16, 2014


I grew up celebrating St. Patrick's Day at family gatherings, my aunts and uncles clustered around the piano where my mother banged out the chords for the familiar old songs she learned from her parents. A cassette tape survives of her father, Owen, singing Tooraloora, and it brings tears to our eyes whenever we hear it. I grew up singing the same songs around the piano, and eventually added to the trove of Irish songs I'd inherited by living and travelling in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. 

Now, my sister hosts a St. Patrick's Day gathering at her house. We always head down a few days in advance, and perhaps the best part of the party is the preparing for it: making rolls of sandwiches and loaves of soda bread, swirling thick frosting on the tops of Guinness cupcakes, and making sure there is enough whisky for a toast or two to the ancestors who had the courage to set off to seek their fortunes in Canada in the mid-19th century.

My mother plays the out-of-tune piano, we dedicate "Danny Boy" to my little brother, and we experience the delight of watching our children starting to sing along to the songs that we learned when we were young. We see the ones who came before us in our children's pale skin, freckles, sparkling eyes, and dark hair, and in their love of music, dance, family, and laughter.

We feel lucky to be descended from the Irish.


  1. Reading this made me smile. What lovely traditions and gorgeous Irish clan you have over there. S. xx

  2. What a lovely way to celebrate a holiday. Your family is adorable and I am glad that Norah is feeling better.
    You look like you may be getting some rest. The kids' freckles are the most interesting feature. One of my childhood friends was very freckled and it always fascinated me. Happy Holiday !~!

  3. I loved reading this. You certainly have Irish heritage from both sides of the family. I always remember Dad's song When Irish Eyes are Smiling. Lots of love to you and your gang!

  4. So true. As far back as I can remember my Dad would come and sit beside me at the piano to sing. How lucky your children love to sing also. Keep up the tradition with help from big sis and all the family. Happy St.Patty's Day to all.

  5. I haven't done a thing this year except for putting a green cloth on the table but I know I am Irish and that is all that counts. A toast to you and all of our family, here and gone. xo

  6. This post and the comments have got me teary. You *are* lucky.


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