Traditions: St. Patrick's Day in Ireland
The Bollinger family -- (back from left) Bob, Martina, (front from left) Ben, 10, and Daniel, 11, -- fly the Irish flag in front of their Petoskey home. Martina was born and raised in Ireland. (Stephanie Stelk/Saturday)
Martina Bollinger, who was born, raised and lived in Ireland until 1994 -- now a resident of Petoskey -- shared memories of a more traditional celebration and the history behind the day.
Bollinger remembers waking in the morning and going outside to gather shamrocks that grew in the mossy cregg near her home. The adults would pin bundles of them to their shirts, girls would wear green bows in their hair, and the children would wear green, orange and white badges.
"Originally, crosses were worn. ... That tradition died out on the 20th century. Today, a traditional badge composed of Ireland's symbol (the harp) is worn with a fresh sprig of shamrock," said Bollinger.
As a child, Bollinger had to make sure her chores were done first in order to earn her St. Patrick's Day badge. Her main job for the day was to make traditional Irish soda bread, made of flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk.
Although the chores are gone now, the badges still hold a special meaning for Bollinger.
"St. Patrick's Day badges were the very last thing my mom sent to me before she passed away ... the very last thing," said Bollinger.
After morning chores, and with badges on, the family would go to Mass, because for the Irish, St. Patrick's Day is a primarily religious holiday.
St. Patrick is believed to have brought the Christian religion to Ireland. After his death, which is believed to be March 17, he became the country's patron saint.
Going to Mass was an important and memorable part of the day for Bollinger.
"Imagine the Irish Army surrounding the altar on St. Patrick's Day ... I was a wee one peering out at them from the pews. They wore rich green uniforms ... and stood bold with their artillery. I was always afraid they would turn and shoot one of those rifles at me. It was a hoot," said Bollinger.
The rest of the day, Bollinger would spend time playing the accordion with her father, spend time with friends and family doing Irish dances and enjoy a traditional dinner of bacon and cabbage.
Many Irish families and friends gathered at one of the local pubs to celebrate and eat. Another Irish tradition is called "downing the shamrock," Bollinger recalled. This consists of all of the men meeting up at the pub after Mass.
"They would put a shamrock in a glass with whiskey. ... Then it was flung over the left shoulder for good luck," said Bollinger.
The pubs in Ireland are used as a meeting place for friends and family as much as they are used for drinking, Bollinger mentioned.
"St. Patrick's Day is one of the leading celebrations found in the country of Ireland," she said.
Everything besides the pubs are shut down for the day and it is frowned upon to keep a business open. It is considered a national holiday, much like Thanksgiving or Christmas here in the United States.
St. Patrick's Day also happens to fall in the middle of Lent. During Lent, the consumption of meat is prohibited for Catholics in Ireland.
However, "an exception was made for St. Patrick's Day ... the Irish celebrate by drinking and eating Irish bacon and cabbage," said Bollinger.