*Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit!

by Rebecca Einstein Schorr on 17 March 2014 @ 11:45 am

If you don’t know what this means, then it doesn’t really matter what “they” say; apparently NOT everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.

(*Happy St. Patrick’s Day! in Gaelic)

Arriving at the salon for my Rosh Chodesh mani/pedi, it didn’t take more than a few moments to realize that everyone must have gotten the green memo. (Though supporters of the Orange Institution would be have received the orange memo.) And then, much to my horror, I realized that I too was wearing green.

Saint Patrick’s Day doesn’t really register in Frume Sarah’s World. I had selected a green blouse with nary a thought to the Feast Day for the patron SAINT of Ireland.

“Oh no!” gasped I.

Not having time to shelp home (11.4 miles. Each way.), I decided to do a Target drive-by.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking.

Lighten UP, Frume Sarah. It’s not like it’s a religious holiday or anything.

Except. It kinda is. Or was, at any rate.

Patrick was born in Scotland around the year 385. As a teen, he was captured and sent to Ireland to herd sheep. (Now, that sounds familiar.) Anyway, during his six years of captivity, Patrick grew deep in his Christian faith, though he was surrounded by Druids and pagans. Upon his return to Britain, he commenced his studies for the priesthood. Inspired by a dream that had the people of Ireland calling him to return, Patrick served the Church by christianizing the polytheistic Irish. Legend teaches that Patrick used the three-leaved Shamrock as a tool in order to explain the Trinity.

In the early 1600’s, March 17, the yahrtzeit of Saint Patrick, was added to the liturgical calendar of the Church as a holy day of obligation. These days are not unlike our yom tovim.

On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass.
Moreover they are to abstain from those works and affairs which hinder the worship to be rendered to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s day, or the suitable relaxation of mind and body.

Just as Lag B’Omer serves as a temporary cessation of the restrictions during the counting of the Omer, Saint Patrick’s Day is a brief respite during the Lenten season. Prohibitions were lifted, giving rise to the consumption of enjoying cabbage with either corned beef or bacon and alcoholic beverages during this period of abstinence.

Saint Patrick’s Day remains a sacred day on the festival calendar of both the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland. Regardless of what society has done over the years to secularize and commercialize this day. I recognize that I am in the minority. However, as a person of faith, I cannot condone stripping the religiosity away from a holiday that belongs to another faith community.

So, no. I am not Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day any more than a citizen of Nigeria is American on Thanksgiving or a Buddist is Jewish on Sukkot.

This post originally appeared on Frume Sarah’s World in 2010

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Irene Spitz 17 March 2014 @ 6:20 pm at 6:20 pm

Loved your explanation and similarities to our holidays.



2 Rabbi Ruth Adar 18 March 2014 @ 1:21 am at 1:21 am

I’m Irish-American by birth as well as Jewish, and I find St. Patrick’s Day challenging, too. It’s definitely a religious holiday, although no longer observed as a “holy day of obligation,” and your explanation of the relation to Lent (a sort of Christian Lag B’Omer) is spot-on.

It’s also a day of ethnic pride, and that’s where it gets tricky. I feel a magnetic pull to Irish-American culture, but many of the current expressions of that are problematic too. I was grateful this year that Guinness declined sponsorship of the NYC St. P’s Day Parade to protest its anti-LGBT policies). It opened up a different possibility for the day: quietly celebrating at home with a Guinness and some of my favorite Irish music.


3 Nina 19 March 2014 @ 6:50 pm at 6:50 pm

So interesting!


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