I Never Felt More American Than When My Family Sang Irish Songs

More than any other day, March 17th reaffirmed for my family just how American we were. Each year we gathered at my grandmother’s house—aunts, uncles, cousins and friends—to practice the uncertain traditions of our distant heritage. Because it was my great-grandfather who had immigrated, we were nearly a century removed from the Old Country and the only links to our ethnic past were some grainy photographs, a few anecdotes and the inexpungible fact of our Celtic surname. Everything else had been given up or forgotten. But we lived in a Boston neighborhood that was heavily Irish and so every resident was obliged to honor, in some way, the memory of our patron saint. Since the date coincided with my grandmother’s birthday, it held an almost mystical significance and was, in order of sacredness, only second to Christmas and Easter. The only thing predictable about Saint Patrick’s Day was that it started at the dinner table and ended in the den. Rising early, my grandmother and aunts would peel, slice, chop and boil what they thought to be traditional Irish Corned Beef & Cabbage. What resulted, however, was more like New England Boiled Dinner and was an overcooked concoction of brisket … Read more