Monday, March 7, 2011

The pluck of the Irish

There are so many reasons to appreciate the month of March. The weather is finally starting to come around and be a bit more forgiving. Piles of trash snow are a thing of February. Crocuses are starting to poke up any place that isn't paved. More importantly, March is the month of St. Patrick's Day. You'd think it's just a day, but you would be incorrect. At least if you live in New York City.

Every card shop I go in (I have been in them a lot lately as I know a lot of March birthdays), has wiped the shelves clean of Valentines Cards and put up their St. Patrick's Day offerings. I didn't realize people sent St. Patrick's Day cards, as I myself am lucky enough to get out the Christmas ones. But they make wholes shelves of them, so surely somebody must be on their game. Either that or the greeting card companies just haven't figured out a way to pimp Lent yet.

In New York City, St. Patrick's Day kicks off two weekends before when everyone piles onto the PATH train and heads to Hoboken to get drunk in the day time. Much like the Times Square at Midnight thing, Hoboken at St. Patrick's Day is a tradition I'm willing to forgo. Both involve far too much waiting around in huge crowds of drunk people without proper bathroom receptacles. A few weeks later on the actual day itself, there is the St. Patrick's Day Parade. Apparently this parade is the oldest (the first one was marched 14 years before the Declaration of Indepdence) and longest parade in the world. I've never actually gone to it because since I've lived here St. Patrick's Day has fallen on a weekday. That and I'm not much for parades, so the long-ness of this one really wouldn't be a draw.

So why do I like St. Paddy's Day? So much so, in fact, that I spent the last one enjoying the greenery in Dublin? It isn't a particular affinity for green beer, but rather an irrepressible love of Irish music. I don't know if I've mentioned it on my blog before, but I've been learning the penny whistle for the last year or so at the Irish Arts Center. I'd love to learn the fiddle too, but alas those are more expensive and can't be dropped in one's purse for ease and portability.
Also appreciated is the opportunity to wear silly hats.

I also enjoy Irish dance a lot, but I realized a lot of what I enjoy about it is the music and the way it works with the music. There are so many patterns to Irish music that eventually you start to feel a familiarity when you hear a song, like you're remembering it from your childhood, when you've never actually heard it before. The other day I was practicing before class at the Center and a fiddle player came up and started playing along with me, just learning it by ear. Granted, that's probably because he's a more talented musician than I am, but still I credit the wonderful ease of Irish jigs and reels to be able to sound good in casual groups. He was even able to make me sound good.

I'm actually of German descent, but enjoy being mistaken for Irish sometimes. (It helps that I have curly, lightish hair, but really anyone who isn't blatantly Asian will get mistaken for Irish at the Irish Arts Center.) In the month of March, we all get the chance to be a little more Irish.


  1. Ok "pimp Lent" is now my new favorite thing you have ever said on your blog. I busted out laughing with that one! I think you should post us a video of you playing your penny whistle.

  2. So why Hoboken and why 2 weeks ahead? Are they planning the parade?

  3. Jess--I actually tried to post a video (although not me) of some great tin whistle tuneage, but so far haven't had much luck. Sometimes blogger bests me.

    FT--I have no idea why the timing, but I've asked this very question. As for why, Hoboken, I think there are just a bunch of Irish pubs there.

  4. How awesome that you got to jam with a fiddle player! I love Irish music too. :)

  5. We're so fake-Irish, we had an Irish traditional band play our wedding (processional and all). You should look them up on iTunes. Cairde Na Gael.