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Sue Bush
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Red Hair, Freckles And Irish Whiskey: What's NOT To Like?

By Sharon Leary
12:00AM / Friday, March 16, 2007

I am possessed by my Irish heritage. And while a significant portion of my pedigree is French Canadian, I must admit to feeling a deeper connection to my Irish roots. Maybe it’s the Celtic lore or maybe it’s the lyrical vocal lilt.

It's All About the "Cool Ring"

Either way, if you ask, I’ll tell you I’m Irish.

North Adams resident Paul Hopkins agrees.

“I’m one of those who is less Irish than 'other,' but I think the Irish part is the most fun to claim," Hopkins said."Ireland has that cool ring to it and I’m proud to be even part Irish.”

Tradition dictates that no matter what lineage comprises your heritage, you are, on March 17th, Irish for the day.

But I was curious to discover who among my friends, colleagues and co-workers claimed a genuine Irish heritage. I composed a quick survey and sent it out. The questions were simple: Do you claim to have an Irish heritage? Do you enjoy Irish music? Have you ever been to Ireland? What do you normally do on St. Patrick’s Day?

While I waited for replies, I went straight to Google. I was curious to know more about my Irish heritage. I found out that the potato was unknown to Ireland until the 16th Century. The most popular surname in Ireland is Murphy and it means sea-battler. There are 26 counties with a population of 4 million people and the main exports are computers, electrical machinery, chemicals and pharmaceuticals -not Guinness.

So, what is the best thing about being Irish?

And The Answer Is...

It’s all about family for Sheila Puricelli and Liz Grees.

“Families with Irish heritage stay connected,” said Grees.

“The stories,” said Jaimi Tudor. “I love to hear my grandmother talk about how her father came to the U.S. because he was wanted in Ireland. He was a police officer and that wasn’t the best job to have back in those days. He came over as a stowaway on a ship.”

Keith Bona’s taste buds ruled his answer: “It’s the corned beef,” and from the clothes-concious Kim Raferty, “I look great in green.”

Karen Pedercini delivered her spin on the Irish best:“It’s my red hair and freckles.”

And then there were those who offered the standard reply:“It gives you an excuse for drinking.”

Irish Whiskey, Irish Cream, Irish Coffee..Now About That Stereotype...

"Drunken Irishman."

That is the most common stereotype of the Irish. It’s enough to get one’s dander up.

“Check out St. Patrick’s Day cards,” said Hopkins. “How many of them refer to drinking and drunk Irishmen. You don’t see such stereotypes for other ethnic holidays. That said, being Irish means you need to be able to laugh at yourself.”

Could a sense of humor be one of the keys to happiness and longevity? Of course it is. But did you know that most Irish folks live to the ripe age of 75?

An "Irish Rover" Thing

Growing up in Springfield, most Sunday’s my family would attend church and then sit down to Sunday dinner. It was during those meals that my father introduced us to traditional Irish folk music. The band that had the most impact on me (till 1980 when U2 changed my life) was the Irish Rovers. There was a certain appeal to songs like “The Unicorn”, “The Orange and the Green” and a family favorite “My Old Man’s a Dustman.” The light and happiness it brought into my family made them special.

If you’re interested in downloading some Irish music, check out the following artists: Liam Clancy, James Galway, the Irish Rovers, Tommy Makem, Danu, the Dubliners, Altan, U2, Elvis Costello, the Corrs, Van Morrison, and the Cranberries.

When it comes to Irish music, Hopkins put the green on the shamrock.

“For me, Irish music has a greater appeal than other types. Some of it tugs at your heart, some of it makes you want to move.”

Just don’t ask him to step dance.

Hollywood Shines On The Emerald Isle

Several folks have apparently been blessed with Irish luck and have visited Ireland. Grees remembers the beautiful landscape and coastline, the warm and inviting people and a chance to discover history.

One of the highlights of her visit was a trip to the castle in County Kerry where a scene from the movie “Ryan’s Daughter” starring Robert Mitchum was filmed.

I’ve seen quite a few movies with Irish themes; but I became curious about Irish films and actors after my conversation with Grees. What had I missed? I found a website that listed Irish or Irish related movies. I was surprised to see how many movies I recognized and how many I still hadn’t seen.

If you are interested in absorbing some Irish culture or want to learn some history here are my recommendations for "must see" Irish films: The Commitments (1991), Brothers McMullen (1995), Darby O’Gill & the Little People (1959), Da (1988), In the Name of the Father (1993), Miller’s Crossing (1990), My Left Foot (1989), The Quiet Man (1952), Snatch (2000), State of Grace (1990) and Waking Ned Devine (1998).

St. Patrick’s Day Traditions

The forecast for St. Patrick’s Day is not green. It looks like most of us will be shoveling our way through a wild white yonder.

But plans have been made, and snow be damned, Kristin Civitella, Sheila Puricelli and Frederica “Grady” Brown plan to hang out with friends and family. Jaimi Tudor and her family plan to go to the Hoosick Falls parade and then visit their favorite drinking establishment. Nicole and Eric Brown will host their annual St. Patrick’s Day party.

And Karen Pedercini and her husband Craig will be lounging on a beach in Cancun drinking “green” margaritas.

My favorite St. Patrick’s Day tradition came from Bona:

Every year the Bona family celebrates with a corned beef dinner and then “the mischief leprechaun” pays a visit to their house.

Apparently this St. Patrick’s Day menace goes from house to house, snatching green items and depositing them at other houses. But the leprechaun is practical; he leaves new toothbrushes, pencils, towels, and shampoo. Last year, Bona's daughter found an impractical green can of Pringles in her pillow - but we are talking about a leprechaun, after all.

My plans for the day include shoveling, walking the dog, catching up on some movies, celebrating with a bottle of wine and watching QVC. Why? It’s the best day of the year to get bargains on Irish sweaters and clothing, Belleek Porcelain, Connemara marble and Waterford Crystal. Plus, you never know who will stop by: Irish Rovers anyone?

Eireann go Brach!

Ireland Forever!

For most of those who answered my survey, Ireland is at the top of their “places to see before I die list.” And my goal for 2008 is to make it to the Emerald Isle.

Enjoy St. Patrick’s Day whether you are Irish for the day or for all time.

I’ll leave you with this old Irish saying, for some reason it appealed to me:

“You can’t kiss an Irish girl unexpectedly. You can only kiss her sooner than she thought you would.”
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