3 Things I LOVE About Ireland & Why Do We Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

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Natalie Wright, P.C.
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It’s curious
that all across America, on one day each year, we celebrate a country that very
few of us have roots in or have visited. Sure, we have a significant population
of Irish immigrants and their descendants in America. But I’m not sure that
explains our willingness – en masse
to don the green.

I can’t think of
any other single country and culture that has such a wide and diverse fan club.
Can you?

As I ponder why
St. Patrick’s Day has become a phenomenon for people who aren’t Irish or Catholic,
I think back to my trip to the Emerald Isle in 2010 (for the magical story of
how I won that trip, check out this post).

Me, Enjoying Ireland
Before I went to
Ireland, I’d read many books and articles about its history, scenery, and culture as research for my novel Emily’s House. I thought I knew
something about the place.

But you can’t know a place or its people from photographs and books.
I tried my best to capture something of Ireland in Emily’s House, but
to be honest, I don’t think my descriptive powers are adequate to describe for
the reader the magic that is Ireland. You have to experience it for yourself.

For St. Patrick’s Day, in honor of a
place – and a people – that I love, here are the top three things I love about Ireland (and why I miss it daily since I left):

1.  Real,
Delicious Food
.
Ireland’s cuisine gets dogged by foodies. It’s true the Irish cuisine is not
varied and it’s not very “serious.” But if you enjoy fresh, unpretentious food that
tastes like what it is and where it came from, then you’ll love feasting in
Ireland.

Lets start with cows. I was
prepared to see a lot of sheep in Ireland. And to be sure, there are plenty of
the woolly creatures roaming the green hills. But there are a hell of a lot of
cows. And those lovely, happy cows produce the best butter in the world. Irish butter from County Kerry is so golden yellow – so buttery looking – that I thought it was artificially colored.  But the yellowy-orange color is real and comes from all the
chlorophyll in the riotous green grass Irish cows eat. I think bread may exist solely to be a place to spread Irish
butter. Irish
butter is in and of itself reason enough to go back.

And lest you think the Irish
have cows roaming every square inch of countryside just so we can have
delicious butter, some of those bovines end up as the best steak and hamburgers
I’ve ever had (vegetarians, you might want to skip this paragraph). I’ve eaten steak in Omaha, Nebraska and Texas. Sorry
American west, but you can’t hold a candle to Irish beef. If you love the taste and texture
of a good steak like I do, then you can appreciate my statement: Ireland may
have the best beef in the world. And it’s not because they get massaged (Kobe style). No, the beef is delicious
because the Irish cows spend their life eating delicious grass and living a blissful cow
life. If you’ve been to the American west, then you know that much of America’s
beef cows live in the arid and semi-arid Southwest, eating a dry diet of dry plants. I have long thought
that the cows don’t look all that happy to live in a dry, hot arid climate with
dry, hot plants. And now that I’ve eaten Irish beef, I know that I’m right.
Happy cows produce happy butter and happy beef.

Happy Irish Cows
I could write a whole post
just on potatoes but I’ll save you that – for now. Suffice it to say the Irish
love their potatoes and if you love potatoes, you can have at least one type of
potato dish per meal. Did someone say mash on the plate with a side of fries?
Yes they did and you gotta love a place that doesn’t see anything wrong with
that.

Irish potatoes whipped with
Kerry butter with a side of Irish steak. Have I made you hungry yet?


2. Green. Yes, I miss green. I live in the desert
which has its own kind of spiritual energy and rugged beauty. In my home
environment, the plants do have green leaves. But the plants have adapted
to the bright sun and intense heat by growing silvery green leaves that reflect
sunlight, thus conserving their precious water.

In Ireland, water is not
scarce and plants aren’t into water conservation strategies. Irish plants proudly display their verdant leaves. Every color of green that
you can imagine (except maybe for the silvery sage green of the desert) lives
abundantly in Ireland. Ireland is so green, it really is beyond description.
But the effect is of an oasis and a feeling that life thrives in every corner
of the island. I think that our love of green spaces is primordial. There’s
something about immersing yourself in a green forest or verdant hills that
makes you feel – human. Alive.


If you go to Ireland, spend
some time driving on the narrow two lanes out of Dublin and into the rolling
hills of the Irish countryside. There you will be surrounded by the green hills
of legend, criss-crossed with ancient stone walls and dotted with cows – happy,
beautiful cows.



Ah – the memory of green.


3. The
People
. If there are
friendlier, more hospitable people on the planet, I’d like to know where they
are. From the moment we stepped off of the plane to the minute we took off to go
home (a sad moment), we had not one single negative experience with the people
of Ireland.






And in the land that has
produced such literary greats as James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, William Butler Yeats, Jonathan Swift and Samuel Becket, people are quick with
  a story, a laugh. Sharing. A country filled
with people happy to be Irish and eager to share their home with you.



Ireland also has a history
filled with harsh conditions, famines and difficulty. But the Irish people are resilient. A country that has throughout its history been beset with
plenty of reasons to make her people give up has produced instead the most
affable people on the planet.



I cannot speak of the people
and the land and the food without mentioning a pint – of Guinness of course.
You haven’t had a beer until you’ve stepped up to the bar and ordered a pint of
Guinness in Ireland. The bartenders there are serious about their beer and it
will be expertly poured for you. Go, sit in the pub with your new friends and
enjoy the music, the stories and the delicious pint.



And perhaps this last reason
I love Ireland is the secret to why our entire country is willing to become
Irish one day a year. One day when we share a tradition that the world could
use more of – to sit together with old friends while you make new ones, sharing
a pint, telling a story and laughing together. The Irish know how to create joy
from any circumstance. Oh, and a pint of Guinness helps.


Hubby having a pint with Danny O’Donoghue,
Lead Singer of The Script
Even their Rock Stars are Good Folk

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to the Irish and
Irish at heart.

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