St Patrick’s Day 2017

St Patrick’s Day 2017

So tomorrow is St Patrick’s Day and as I will be working till the afternoon the celebrations back in Ireland will be nearly over by the time I get to have a few beers and celebrate our national day. 

It’s funny though, I have been living g in the USA now for 16 months, and this will be my second St Patrick’s Day as a resident in the USA and I still haven’t gone to a St Patrick’s Day parade. Before I moved here I had attended and taken part in a good few parades over the years since my first one in Newport, RI back in 2000. I have taken part in parades in Worcester, South Boston, Savannah, Tybee Island, and Newport. I was in the Savannah, Worcester and Newport parades twice. 

Tomorrow is a day to celebrate being Irish, or being of Irish heritage. I am proud to be Irish, it definitely defines who I am and how I handle things. Being from Ireland and now living in Atlanta is a huge change, it’s not like Boston, New York or Chicago where there arw huge Irish communities. The Atlanta Irish community is quite small in comparison but us Irish always find one another. My next door neighbor is from Kildare and one day in the local supermarket a guy from Dundalk said Hi as he recognized my St Patrick’s Athletic jersey. 

I am looking forward to heading into MacMcGees in Decatur after work tomorrow with Leanne and celebrating everything about Ireland and home. 

Be safe, have fun and Happy St Patrick’s Day. 

Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit

Cinco De Mayo

Cinco De Mayo

So today is Cinco De Mayo and up to last week I had no idea what it was. Yes its the 5th of May and it’s a big celebration around here, or an excuse to have Mexican beer, food and margaritas, but why is it such a big thing here.

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Cinco De Mayo

 

To answer my own question I had to do some research to find out exactly why Cinco De Mayo is such a celebration. There are lots of Mexican restaurants and immigrants around the Atlanta area and the rest of the USA so I can imagine their influence had something to do with it.  But I had to find out was it like July 4th here in the US, St Patrick’s Day in Ireland or Bastille Day in France.

So what did I find out. Well Cinco De Mayo commemorates the Mexican armies victory over the French on May 5th 1862 in the Battle of Puebla. A lot of people mistake today for Mexican Independence day, but that falls on September 16th. Mexico was an independent state some 50 years before the Battle of Puebla took place.

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Battle of Puebla (Wikipedia)

Like St Patrick’s Day, Cinco De Mayo can be a bigger celebration in the USA rather than the country that actually owns the day. When I first came to the USA with the Air Corps Pipe Band in 2000 I was surprised at how big St Patrick’s Day was here so I can imagine how some Mexicans think about Cinco De Mayo being such a huge thing here too. Mexico doesn’t really celebrate Cinco De Mayo except for the city of Puebla where for obvious reasons it’s a big thing.

We will have a party at the house on Saturday with a Mexican theme to help celebrate today and I am sure there will be a few beers and margaritas flowing, with this Irishman having a Guinness or 2. Have fun today, be safe and enjoy.

St Patrick’s Day 2016

I wasn’t going to post today but I can’t let today go by without a post. Today is special for two reasons, one of my Irishness and the other for a very personal reason.

Today the world, not only Ireland, celebrates St Patrick’s Day, buildings around the globe go green for today, parades are held and people wear green. As a recent emigrant and someone who has spent a lot of St Patrick’s Day events away from Ireland being away from Ireland is nothing new.

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Happy St Patrick's Day

I am a proud Irishman, and a day like today allows me express that pride. I will fly a flag at my house as usual, I will wear green and a small Shamrock as a symbol of St Patrick. I will also wear a rosette as they were very common for me as a child and it adds to the day, even if it looks a bit silly.

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St Patrick's Day Rosettes

The personal reason is quite simple, it was 15 years ago today that I met my future wife. We didn’t know then that we would eventually marry, that I would cross the Atlantic to be with her and that it would take 14 years from then for our lives to meet up and result in us getting married. It has been a wonderful and eventful journey, and one I am happy I took. Today is our first St Patrick’s Day together since we met all those years ago in Savannah and we started it off by having breakfast out together and will end it with a drink or two.

I will end this post with a message ; be good to each other, don’t be a twit for the sake of it, enjoy your day and finally to my wife, I love you with all my heart and I am happy we are together.

Proud to be Irish

Proud to be Irish

Even though I left the country of my birth just a few short months ago and have been slowly acclimatising to life here in the USA, I will never forget my home country or not be proud to be Irish. It defines everything I am and how I do things. We can be a bit mad, have funny ways of saying things (don’t get offended if I swear at you), live up to some stereotypes and be completely at odds with others.

Once again I start a post and start rambling on about stuff. This week, especially tomorrow, is a big week for anyone who is Irish, or claims Irish heritage. Tomorrow is St Patrick’s Day and the whole world joins the Irish in celebrating our National holiday, the day of our patron saint; St Patrick. Yesterday was Proclamation Day, a day when schools all over Ireland will unveil their own version of the Proclamation for a New Generation. This is all part of the 1916 Centenary Celebrations that are taking place in Ireland over the whole of 2016 but especially over the next few weeks.

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1916 Proclamation

Things like Proclamation Day are a very good idea and as part of it every school in Ireland was given a National Flag and a copy of the 1916 Proclamation to display in their school. One thing I do feel the country, or more specifically got wrong was the timing of the biggest commemoration, which takes place on Easter Sunday. The 1916 Rising did take place over Easter, but Easter that year was on April 23/24th and as such the major commemoration should have taken place that weekend. But governments make decisions that are in their best interest and not in the interest of the people who gave them a job to do. But that is a whole other post/rant. I will post more about 1916 and the 2016 celebrations to commemorate it in a later post closer to the actual date of the Rising, and not the date made up by an inefficient faceless civil servant or politician.

Anyway, back to St Patrick’s Day. As a child growing up in Dublin one of the highlights of the year was going into the city center to view the parade with all its floats, marching bands and other fun things that any child would love. It was also a day where we could have sweets in the middle of Lent and if you go back to my post on Ash Wednesday you will get what I mean. As I got older I was able to take part in many parades as a member of the Scouts, and it was a great honour to march in the parade as a 12 year old. As I got older I have celebrated St Patrick’s Day in various places in the USA and overseas with the Irish Defence Forces. As a member if the Irish Air Corps Pipe Band I have marched in parades in Boston, Newport RI and Savannah.It was while here in Savannah in 2001 I met my future wife, I didnt know that back then and it did take us another 14 years before we finally got together. This will be my first St Patricks Day in the USA since 2004 and my first with my wife since I met her in 2001!

St Patricks Day Festival Parade 2013 (2)
Irish National Flag flanked by the EU Flag at the St Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin

St Patrick’s Day is a day to celebrate Ireland and our unique place in the world.Over 33 million Americans claim Irish descent of some sort and there are thousands of recent Irish immigrants into the USA, of which I am one. There are lots of misconceptions about Ireland and St Patrick’s Day but I alluded to them in an earlier post so wont go there again. Just of you are out celebrating our great little country, have fun, be safe and Sláinte from this proud Irishman to everyone in his newly adopted country and to everyone back home in Ireland.

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Irish Shamrock – Wear it with Pride

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh – Happy St Patrick’s Day to You All

It is not St Patty or Patty’s Day!

Lá Fhéile Pádraig is the Irish for St. Patrick’s Day, and it does not translate into Patty’s or Patty ever. As a lot of the USA will be celebrating St Patrick’s Day this weekend including Atlanta I feel its apporiate that I point this out early so people won’t fall into the mistake of calling our national day the wrong thing. Could you imagine if people in Ireland or Europe called July 4th anything other than American Independence Day or July 4th holiday.

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So please have a drink of Guinness, enjoy your local parade, wear green and enjoy some Irish music, but refer to the day itself as St Patrick’s Day, and the festivities before and after as a festival of Irishness for St Patrick’s Day. Never ever refer to it as Patty’s Day or St Patty  Day

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St Patrick is Ireland’s patron saint, he was not female and called Patricia! Enjoy your weekend and have fun. I will be back on Monday with a post as the lead up to St Patrick’s Day grows. It won’t be my first St Patrick’s day in the USA as I have taken part in numerous parades from Savannah and Tybee GA, Newport RI, South Boston and Worcester MA. But this will be my first as a resident so it will have a different dynamic.

Teaching Ireland

Teaching Ireland

Today was a chance for me to repay some of the kindness that has been shown to me since my arrival here last November. I am a very patriotic Irishman and when someone asks me to tell them about Ireland I am only happy to oblige. So when someone asks me to tell kindergarten children about Ireland I am even more happy to help out especially when the person asking is my wife’s friend and her daughter was an excellent flower girl at our wedding.

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So yesterday afternoon I got some stuff ready, pictures I had taken around Ireland to show of some of our beautiful country, some simple Irish phrases I could say to them, some Irish tunes and some facts and figures that they would understand.

This morning I made my way to Shallowford Presbyterian School all ready. Oh did I forget to mention I had an Ireland rugby top on and my Irish kilt as well as a small Irish flag. I am not a shy public speaker but this was different, adults will tell you to slow down if they don’t understand, I wasn’t sure the children would, but I need not have worried, they did tell me and off we went on a journey from Atlanta to Ireland via photos and facts.

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It was a great experience and one I would not hesitate to do again. After we were finished the children told me about their Leprechaun traps that they had made for St Patrick’s Day and I left them a small Irish flag to put in their display. Last but not least there was time for a photo with one class and to give them their final treat, green shamrock shaped cookies.

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I have to thank Maggie for asking to give the talk and to Charlotte for hosting and for all the children who were so interested and asked some great questions about Ireland and being Irish.

Presidents Day and other holidays

I have been here three months now and have been able to see how the USA celebrates Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year as well as lesser observed holidays like Martin Luther King day and today’s holiday, Presidents Day.

Thanksgiving is definitely the biggest family occasion with Christmas coming in a close second. The traditions of Thanksgiving seem to get passed from generation to generation while Christmas, even though will still hold family traditions, new ones are made as families grow up and spread their wings throughout the USA. This is just a simple observation from myself, a newcomer to the whole Thanksgiving holiday as we don’t celebrate it in Ireland.

Anyway, back to today’s holiday, one that is observed by Federal government and their employees. So schools are closed, federal offices are closed but private companies are all at work. This isn’t a new phenomenon to me, back when I was the Defence Forces in Ireland we had a 3 holidays that no knew else in the country received.

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Presidents Day

So what is Presidents Day?  Originally it was supposed to be a celebration for George Washington’s birthday which falls on February 22nd. In what seems a smart move by a government, in 1971 the Uniform Monday Holiday Act moved nearly all holidays to a Monday to allow more 3 day weekends for workers. Off course as most employees don’t get Presidents Day off work, it’s a kinda pointless thing. But it does help for other holidays throughout the year.

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US Presidents Seal

Nowadays Presidents Day is to celebrate all Presidents, not just Washington. There are four living Ex US Presidents, George HW Bush, Jimmy Carter, George W Bush and Bill Clinton, with the present President, Barack Obama, making it five. Here in Atlanta, the city has the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum so maybe Presidents Day is a good day to visit, or definitely soon after. It is on my to do list in the summer when my son comes to visit.
Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum

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USA Holidays

I am looking forward to celebrating some more US holidays like July 4th but for me March 17th and St Patrick’s Day will be my big holiday. I am also interested to see how US citizens celebrate Easter, is it all about Easter Eggs, or is there a religious aspect to the whole time around Easter.

See if what we think is there is really there

One year ago, Feb 11th 2015, I was on a plane from Dublin to Atlanta via Chicago to see Leanne. Today I will give a brief over view of our story and how we got together and how our journey has reached today. We met on St Patrick’s Day (March 17th) 2001 in Savannah, GA while Leanne was there with friends for the celebrations and I was there with the Irish Air Corps Pipe Band to take part in the parade and other celebrations. We had an instant connection and had great fun together.

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Savannah Parade Logo

We kept in touch via email, remember this was before smartphones, Facebook etc so email was really our only option besides cards at Christmas and birthdays. Our friendship blossomed even with the Atlantic in the way and in 2002 I returned to Atlanta to visit Leanne for 4/5 days before a trip to Boston with the band. Over the years we remained good friends and our lives took differing paths. In Feb 2014, notice a trend here with February, My phone made a funny notification sound I didn’t recognise, it was this thing called Google Hangouts, and it was Leanne asking did it work. We had a cheap and easy way to keep in contact.

We messaged daily, we chatted via video a lot of the time too and generally just kept in touch. But we had a few serious conversations and one of them was the ‘Us’ conversation. We both knew what we wanted, we were both on the same page but we knew there was complications, namely a visa and an ocean! We decided that I would travel over to visit in February 2015 and that brings me to the title of today’s post. It really was to see if what we thought was there was really there.

As I flew across the Atlantic my mind was racing, this could be a life changing trip, what if we were wrong and more importantly, what if we were correct? What would be next? How would we get on? How much had we changed in the 13 years we hadn’t seen each other? These questions and probably a few hundred more flew around my mind.

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Crossing the Atlantic with Aer Lingus

So at approx 9 pm on February 11th 2015 I landed in Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport after a long day travelling from Dublin. I was still a bit nervous and on the way over I had met an Irish woman who had lived in Decatur for 30 years and she gave me the correction pronunciation of Decatur, I was saying it wrong all this time! As I waited on my bag to arrive I seen Leanne, she had changed and was looking stunning…as always. When we met we did have an awkward moment, hug, kiss…we didn’t know what to do but our instant chemistry that we thought was there was definitely there.

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Our very first bad selfie

We spent a wonderful 18 days together, made our plans for the future and it was soon time to depart for Ireland. That was the hardest goodbye I have ever done, even now after leaving Ireland and coming to live here, that goodbye to Leanne last Feb 28th was the hardest. We parted as a couple who had decided to get married and live our lives together. Now it was a matter of filling in the required paperwork, getting Leanne’s Dads permission to officially ask Leanne to be my wife and wrapping up 47 years of my life in Ireland. On April 20th I made my first ever phone call to Leanne’s parents to ask their permission to marry their eldest daughter. It was my first time to talk to them and I had to be very conscious to not talk as fast as I normally do, this was an important call. Thankfully Bob and Terri were delighted and gave us their blessing to get married and continue our journey through life together.

With our paperwork for our Visa with USCIS we awaited their decision and on June 29th 2015 we got approval for our application for a K1 fiancee visa. With Leanne about to come visit Ireland in July it was perfect timing. Leanne arrived on July 22nd and the following day while visiting the Long Room Library in Trinity College I officially proposed and put an engagement ring on Leanne’s finger. A journey that had started 14 years previous as friends had taken a huge step forward.

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Just after the Proposal

Our wedding plans were already in motion but now we could make them certain and it was nearly time for me to pick a date to leave Ireland and move to Atlanta. November 5th was the date chosen and I had lots to do. Move out of my rented house that had been my home for 12 years, sell my car, spend as much time as I could with my son, wrap up work, say goodbye to friends and family and figure out how much stuff i could actually transport trans Atlantic. I will end this post here but i will come back to our story soon.