Monday, March 19, 2012

The Lion in March

Happy Post St. Patrick's Day Clevelanders! Were you one of the 500,000 people who ventured Downtown to celebrate? I was, and I can assure you it was a blast! The beautiful weather coupled with the waves of green made for a great afternoon. Below I have a guest post from reader and fellow Clevelander John O'Brien Jr, co-founder of The Ohio Irish American News, sharing some history on St. Patrick's Day in America as well as in Cleveland. Enjoy!

This time of year, we Irish tend to wax poetic.  The nostalgia of our past, the heartbeat of our songs and our stories, has fertile ground all year long for a country so shaped by emigration and strife, but it has new energy and searching around the gatherings and significance of the St. Patrick’s season.

I could be talking about America, I could be talking about Ireland; they are indelibly linked. We can’t go back, so all year long, but especially around St. Patrick’s Day, we bring a little bit of Ireland here to Cleveland.

The longing for love that echoes thru February gives way to trademark Irish longing for connection, roots past and present, that steals our hearts and shapes our journey.  We recognize the nostalgia, give nod to the tuggings, but it has never stopped people from going forward, to new lands, higher ground, and an ever growing legacy of refusing to accept today as enough.  We are a people who firmly and actively believe in paying it forward.

Call it Catholic guilt, the Immigrant’s Inspiration (to do better) or the simple crafting of our lives shaped by past struggle; we do not stop going forward.  Cleveland, and the world, have been so shaped by the Irish Diaspora that it has become seamless into each’s own history. All across America, it is no different.

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is great and the music brilliant, but it is the family that unites us all.  God, relations, and friends - these are what has carried us through starvation and immigration, achievement and paying it back, and forward.  Now we say thanks, and celebrate the gifts we have received.

Cleveland has welcomed so many nationalities through offering an opportunity to stand on your own two feet and build a life by your character and your efforts.  It still does.  We read earlier this year about the opening of the Welcome Center, and Positively Cleveland is doing remarkable work from their new location on Euclid.

So please let me take this opportunity to wish all Clevelanders a Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and the start of March’s Irish Heritage Month. Thank you for making our community, part of your community. The green season is at the forefront this month, but don’t forget the man himself; Ireland’s patron saint.  St. Patrick.  Yes, St. Patrick was a man; so if you must shorten it, please replace your Patty with Paddy.

Does it matter?  Sure it does, for two reasons; you don’t misspell someone’s name deliberately, or call a man a woman; it’s rude.  Secondly, most importantly, and maybe without your knowledge, calling an Irishman a Paddy has strong historical connotations, almost all of them negative.  For a long time, Paddy, like “Mick” was a pejorative term aimed at Irish immigrants, mostly by American’s who may have only a generation or three in America, but considered themselves natives.  The “Irish Need Not Apply” signs are a dark mark part of American history, indelibly tainting both the sign maker and the sign holder.

The events throughout Cleveland on and around St. Patrick’s Day are overwhelming positive, diverse and capture the essence of the Irish in music, dance, history and hope. The shear volume of special events coming up this month highlight the rich and varied culture that hasn’t just survived, but has thrived.  This is the 145th St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the nation’s 5th oldest.  Ireland is a country of four million that has a Diaspora of over 400 million – over 400 million satisfied customers cannot be wrong!

In America, we are in recovery and inch by inch, row by row, we make this garden grow. Enjoy Irish History Month, and learn a bit of Irish history while you’re at it – it is indelibly linked with our American heritage. God willing, spring is just around the corner           

Hope to see you Out & About,


John can be reached via email at or follow along with his story on Facebook here. You can follow him on Twitter @jobjr.

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