Monday, March 20, 2017


    St. Patrick's Day is a lively celebration, traditionally observed with parades, music, dancing, Irish food and green beer.  Chances are, there will be a parade near you, as there are parades and celebrations all over the United States on this Irish holiday.  The following are the top 10 of the heap.


Boston, Mass.

   They've been partying since 1901 in "Bean Town".  About 850,000 people attend this spirited party.  The city's population is about 16 percent Irish and they celebrate St. Patrick's Day with enthusiasm.



New York City

   New York's parade has been celebrated since 1762.  They expect about 2 million people to line the streets of New York for the largest and oldest St. Patrick's parade in the United States.  The huge parade has about 150,000 marchers.  No floats or automobiles allowed.  Plenty of bagpipes and green beer in the city on this Irish event.  As the original St. Patrick's Day Parade in U.S. history, the first event was held in 1762.


Chicago- South Side

   The South side parade draws about 325,000 people.  This Irish neighborhood's parade has a lively party atmosphere.



   The event in Chicago has taken place since 1843.  About 300,000 people attend the parade.  Before the parade the famous Chicago River is turned green with the help of some green dye, and a leprechaun or two.  The fantastic dying of the famous Chicago River takes place in the early morning and the parade follows.


Savannah, Georgia

   The St. Patrick's Day event has taken place since 1825 and draws a crowd of 400,000.  Local traditions include dying the city's fountains green and eating green grits for breakfast.  The annual parade, one of the oldest in the country, is designated as one of the top 20 special events in the Southeast.



Kansas City, Missouri

   This parade attracts about 200,000 spectators.  The parade was first held in 1873 but did not take place for several years.  In 1973, the parade was brought back to life by a group of businessmen trying to help out a pal by drawing a group of marchers to an Irish pub.  The procession turned into a street party, and the parade has grown into one of the largest int he United States.  There is a trip to Ireland to the grand prize winners of the procession, so participants give it their best effort.



San Francisco, California

   The oldest and biggest celebration west of the Mississippi.  The parade marches along the trolley tracks.  There is a post parade party for the entire family.  This event draws more than a million people.  It is billed as one of the most fashionable parades in the country.


New London, Wisconsin

   Magical leprechauns change the name of this northern town to New Dublin.  A Parade, corned beef and cabbage and Irish music and dancing.  A rowdy reenactment of Finnegan's Wake precedes the parade and festival, the parade is followed by an afternoon of celebrations at Irish Fest.

Dublin, Ohio

   One of nine U.S. Cities named Dublin, it has one of the better St. Patrick's Day parties.  130 unites of clowns, floats, bands and lively pre and post parade parties.  The Blarney Bash Tent features Irish music, dancing, drums and pipes.



Hot Springs, Arkansas

    Described as what may be the "World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade", by Ripleys, this parade has unique touches including: Elvis look a likes, green fireworks and Irish Belly dancers.


   Ah, St. Patrick's Day: the day when each one of your friends and even your grandfather seems to be Irish.  This is probably the only day when you'll dig through your closet, just to find that  special green something to wear wherever you go.  St. Patrick's Day is celebrated all over the world, and for many, it's a day to relax and drink, whether it's a favorite ale or just some random green beer served at the bar.  Many think St. Patrick's Day is just about wearing green, drinking, and dealing with the hangover the next day.  However, there are probably some things that many don't know about St. Patrick's Day.
   Some of the facts you'll find surprising, while others are a little bit more expected, especially if you've participated in a St. Patrick's Day festivity once in your life.  And of course, have a Happy St. Patrick's Day!

  • Shamrocks
    Of course with St. Patrick's Day comes the massive appearance of shamrocks.  Whether you're wearing one pinned to your lapel or you have them on your socks, shamrocks have definitely become a central symbol for this day.  In the olden days in Ireland, the shamrock was seen as sacred.  Due to its green color and overall shape, many believed it to represent rebirth and life.  The four leaves of the clover represent faith, love, hope, and of course, luck.  Because of this, the shamrock has continued to be very popular in the Irish culture.  When the Irish were under control of the English, many silent protests were held, and each person should wear a shamrock pinned to their shirt.  From then on the shamrock has became a very well known symbol that represents Ireland and the Irish people.


  • Prohibition in Ireland....Really
   When you think of March 17th, you almost surely will think of beer, and when you think of someone Irish, you probably think of beer and pubs as well.  But, in the history of Ireland, beer wasn't always a given on this widely celebrated day.  In 1903, a member of the Irish parliament, James O'Mara introduced a new bill that called to recognize St. Patrick's Day as a religious observation in Ireland.  However, because this was made a law, this meant that all of the local pubs had to close; therefore, no beer was readily available.  So for 67 years, the Irish suffered through a total shut down of all pubs until 1970 when the law was overturned and the holiday was no longer a religious observance, but a national holiday.



Newfoundland and Labrador

  • Only Three Locations Truly Care!
   While many places all over the world celebrate St. Patrick's Day, from the U.S. to Australia to Argentina and South Korea, only a very select few locations have actually made this day a public holiday for everyone.  First, the very tiny island sometimes known as "Emerald Island of the Caribbean", Montserrat, is one of three countries that publicly celebrate the holiday.  This is due to the high number of Irish refugees that came from Nevis and St. Kitts to the island.  So to commemorate them, the holiday is celebrated.  The holiday is also considered to be a public one in Newfoundland and Labrador.  Here the holiday is celebrated to remember a failed slave uprising that occurred in 1798.  And of course, last but not least, Ireland has made March 17th a public holiday as well.

  • Yes, Hallmark Makes Some Money Too
   We all know about Hallmark and their greetings that are perfect for some of the most prized holidays such as Christmas, Mother's Day, and even Valentine's Day.  If you've ever given someone a card, or received a card yourself, you've probably opened one that was closed by Hallmark's famous gold seal.  Though it seems crazy, on St. Patrick's Day, Hallmark usually sells anywhere from 8-15 million St. Patrick's Day cards each year.  But, offering these cards to the public isn't anything new for Hallmark.  According to their website, the company has been offering these green cards since the early 1920's, and there is always a wide selection to choose from, usually between 100-150 cards each year.


  • So does McDonald's
   If you've ever taken a look at McDonald's "dessert" menu, to put it lightly, you've surely seen the pies, ice cream, cookies, and probably even one of those fruit parfaits.  You've probably also noticed the varying milkshakes that McDonald's offers, especially during certain holidays and season.  Usually around the end of February or beginning of March, McDonald's offers its Shamrock Shake.  Of course the milkshake is nothing but a green color that tastes like mint.  First served in 1970, the shake had become very popular in the U.S., Canada, and Ireland but today is mostly popular in the U.S.  Prices of the shake have about doubled in the last decade, and new additions are often added.  Recently, McDonald's has served the shakes with whipped cream topped with a cherry.

Evacuation Day

  • Evacuation Day
   With every event that occurs, there's usually some sort of coincidence to it, and St. Patrick's Day is no exception.  In a few counties in Massachusetts, the state with the largest amount of an Irish population ( about one fourth), there is a celebration of a day known as Evacuation Day.  Mainly the day is celebrated in Somerville, Cambridge, and Suffolk County.  While Boston is already well known for its celebration of St. Patrick's Day, Evacuation Day is important as well.  Coincidentally the holiday falls on March 17th, but it does commemorate a very special event in Irish history.  On March 17, 1776, the British forces left Boston after troops headed by Henry Knox and George Washington,  placed heavy artillery around the city.  To celebrate this significant event, counties in Massachusetts made the day a holiday in 1901.  However, the holiday is usually under heavy fire, as some see it as a wast of money, as workers are paid for a day off.


  • Snakes in an Ocean
   We've all heard one Irish folklore story or another, especially those center on St. Patrick.  One very popular story is that St. Patrick was able to chase all of the snakes out of Ireland where they then drowned in the ocean.  However, when it come down to it, St. Patrick didn't chase any snakes out of anywhere, nor can you take folklore literally.  In all reality, there has never been any record of snakes living anywhere near the Emerald Isle.  Instead, figurative language was often used in these folklore's, and in this case, the serpents more than likely represented druid and pagan religions that slowly disappeared from Ireland over a period of centuries after St. Patrick is said to have place the seed of Christianity there.

  • New York Has More Irish Pride

   With a holiday all about the Irish, you'd probably think that the biggest and most widely known celebrations come from nowhere else but Ireland.  However, as history shows, Ireland isn't the country that tops the list with Irish pride, at least not when it comes to celebrations and festivities.  After decades of studying, no one has found the exact time when St. Patrick's Day was first widely celebrated.  The first known depiction of the holiday comes from a man named Jonathan Swift, who mentions a 1713 celebration taking place in London.  The only thing mentioned is a day where Westminster Parliament was given a holiday and that buildings were decorated in green.  In 1762 in New York City, the first parade honoring this holiday took place.  Today it stands as the largest celebration and parade in the U.S.  Almost 3 million people come to see the parade, which contains over 150,000 people that span a mile and a half long.

  • Green or Blue?
   Though green is a very popular color on St. Patrick's Day, the original color that was very popular and often related back to St. Patrick was not green, but blue.  However, in today's world, if you're without an ounce of green, expect a pinch.  In Irish folklore, green is known as being worn by immortals and fairies, and often signified new life and crop growth.  Some even say that wearing green is considered to be unlucky as it is known to represent a time in Irish history when Ireland was not a free country.  Blue came into the picture long ago when the military men wore "St. Patrick's Blue" in their uniforms.  The blue is also represented during the time when Henry VIII was declared King of Ireland and the flag used was a gold harp on a blue background.  But today, green is the prominently known and worn color.  In Chicago, the Chicago River is dyed green using 40 pounds of green vegetable dye.

  • St. Patrick Wasn't Irish
    Because St. Patrick's Day is so popular in Ireland, and all you really ever hear about on the date is Irish this Irish that, you probably just assume that St. Patrick is as well.....Irish.  However, your assumption would be wrong St. Patrick was actually Scottish and was said to be either born in Scotland or Wales.  Even more shocking is that his nae wasn't even Patrick.  His birth  name is actually Maewyn Succat.  However, at the age of 16, he was kidnapped and sold into Irish slavery.  Later on in time he became a priest under bishop of Auxerre and took on the name Patricius, better known as Patrick.  her he felt that this was his calling in  bringing Christianity and Ireland closer together.  In any case, the Scottish should get some recognition on this day as well.


   The trappings of St. Patrick's Day are familiar to most Americans these days.  There's drinking, green bowlers, leprechauns with their shillelaghs, four leaf clovers everywhere you can imagine, and parades that usually involve men in kilts playing the bagpipes.  While these celebrations are fairly old, beginning in the 1760's in New York, St. Patrick's Day has been observed by the Irish for over 1,000 years.   As such, to figure out just where everything came from and where this saint came from, you need to dig back into history.
   Though we know him today as Patrick, the man's original name was Succat according to Baby Names of Ireland.  Succat, or Patrick to keep things simple, was born to wealthy parents in Britain.  His father was a Christian deacon, though the household appeared to be devoted to the church more for tax breaks than for faith.  Patrick was taken hostage at the age of 16 by Celtic raiders, who were part of the armies of the Irish High King Niall of the 9 Hostages.  Once captured, Patrick was sent back to Ireland to work as a slave.


   Once he went back to Ireland, Patrick was allegedly put to work as a shepherd.  Out in the middle of nowhere, away from people and all alone, Patrick turned to god for comfort and solace.  Though he was a slave for many years, Patrick had a vision that he needed to bring his faith to the people of Ireland.  After almost 6 years, Patrick walked away from his post as a shepherd, traveling more than 200 miles to return to Ireland where he studied and was eventually made a priest and a missionary.  He then returned to Ireland to try and bring the entire kingdom to Christianity.


   Now St. Patrick wasn't the first to attempt to convert an entire nation, however he had figured out an important strategy that has worked time and time again in easing transition of pagan peoples to the church.  You read the culture and the ways of the pagan people, and you find ways to compare the religion and culture they have to make it seem very similar to Christianity.  For instance, the sun played an important part in Celtic faith.  You compare the light of the sun to the light of Jesus on the world, add a few tweaks to the feast days and holidays, and you've made the first steps towards conversion.  This technique still shows evidence in many modern holidays like Christmas and even Valentine's Day, where the church took existing holidays and made the celebration's more church friendly from what they were initially to help carry over the pagan holdouts.



   St. Patrick had a resounding success with his efforts to Christianize the Irish.  In fact he was so successful that he's credited with bringing the Catholic faith almost single handily to Ireland.  This has made St. Patrick something of a folk hero, which is why so many of the stories about him, including the chasing out of all the snakes in Ireland, which might refer to either the druids or  to the devil, seem to be inflated until they resemble American tall tales.

   While no one's entirely sure of the truth about St. Patrick and what specifically he did or didn't do, he's become a symbol of the Irish people and of those descended from the Irish.  Along with the claddagh, the various tartans and other symbols of Irish pride, St. Patrick is one of the many historical forces that started bringing individual villages and counties together into a single, more or less unified culture.  Of course the celebration and fest day in March, when restrictions on meat and alcohol curing Lent are temporarily raised in honor of the Irish Saint, probably helps with his popularity and remembrance as well

Friday, March 10, 2017


Image result for las fallas 2017

  In the middle of the Mediterranean coast, Valencia city, celebrates each year the final days of the winter and the arrival of spring with spectacular fires of  pyrotechnics.  From March 15th to the 19th (the feast of Saint Joseph, day of the father in the whole country), Valencia is given over to a carnival of bonfires, fiesta, fireworks and a healthy dose of satire known as Las Fallas, "the fires".


    Displayed on every corner all over the city are colorful ninots, giant paper-mache' figures often 20 feet tall or even more that have been paraded through the streets and then place in fantasy groups to tower over excited spectators.  Each one in some way satires a political figure, or a soap star, or more exotic creatures from the movies, TV, sports idols, or simply imagination.  Some of them are grotesque...others playful and charming...all are larger than life and up for public scrutiny.



    Every day at 2 p.m., firecrackers rip through the Plaza del Ayuntamiento in a noisy event called La Mascleta'.  This concert of gunpowder is very popular and involves different neighborhood groups competing for the most impressive volley, ending with the terremoto, (literally means "earthquake") as hundreds of masclets explode simultaneously.  While this may not be for the frail or faint hearted, you will understand how the Valencians got their valiant name.


    Another important event is the Ofrenda de Flores a la Virgen de los Desamparados, a beautiful ceremony every March 17th and 18th,  that honors Valencia's patron Virgin.  Thousands of Falleras and Falleros arrive to the city from every corner of the Comunitat (Valencia State) and take the streets wearing traditional costumes and dancing to their neighborhood or village bands as they wind their way to the Plaza de la Virgen to offer bouquets to the giant image of the Virgin.



   Historians say that the origins of the festival go back to the time when carpenters cleared out their workshops and talleres at the end of winter, throwing out odds and ends of wood and old candles and lighting them on the street the day of Saint Joseph.


  Nowadays, celebrations draw to an end with a fabulous firework displays in the Paseo de la Alameda, called the Nit del Foc (literally "The Night of Fire"), on March 18th.  All Fallas burn all over the city the following night (including the winner of the competition) in a tremendous spectacle of fire and joy.  Valencia is at that moment like Nero's Rome, a city in flames.  That's why Valencians call this the best firework fiesta in the world!



Fireworks in las Fallas

   Keep the fireworks in mind even if your are not a fan.  Here they are not just fireworks.  Over the centuries the Valencians developed them into a form of art.  Valencia is the unrivalled Mozart of fireworks.  Valencian pyrotechnic crews get regularly contracted for blowing up big world events, such as Olympics and New Years.  The fireworks of the Fallas must not be missed.
There are two types of fireworks during the Fallas Festival.
The Mascleta
   The firecrackers. The mascleta is not visual, it is just the explosions.  But remember: in Valencia it is not just noise.  It is an orchestra, there are all those various types of explosions and the Valencians attempt to create some kind of symphony out of them, much like playing a piano.  There are various professional pyrotechnic bands who compete to create the best "melody".
   The best mascleta is meant to be on the last day of the Fallas Festival, the 19th of March.  But get there early...most people will want to see it.


The Castillo
   The castillo is the visual fireworks, performed at night.  Even someone who is not a fan and always finds the fireworks boring must see what the Valencians can do.  It's not just a few green balls, few red balls and a bunch of white rays.  It will leave you in awe with an open mouth, the shear complexity, aesthetics and artistic harmony is incredible.  Words can't describe it.  You have never seen anything like it.

Nic De Foc

   "Night of Fire".  Usually the castillo lasts for 10-15 minutes.  The Nic de Foc is the highlight of the Fallas fireworks...it is extra special, extra visual, extra inventive and extra amazing.  It goes on for 25-30 minutes.  Don't miss it and do pick a good spot early...once it starts the whole city will move towards a good spot and huge avenues will become totally impassable.

Street Petards

   This is one of the more unfortunate side of the Fallas Festival.  Witch such Valencian devotion to explosions, the mascleta and castillo are simply not enough.  On March 1st, the first petard is thrown on the streets.  Over the next two weeks it gets progressively more until, finally, on the 15th, the city is entirely in a war zone.  For the next four days, you simply won't walk 3 seconds without hearing an explosion to the left and to the right.
   It is fun to walk in such mayhem and it adds to the festivals atmosphere.  Unfortunately, its goes way beyond fun.  Many of the petard throwers are benign family people entertaining their kids, or the kids themselves are doing the entertaining.  This is hard enough in itself...it's not that much fun to jump of fright every ten minutes.  But there is also that very malicious breed of adolescent youth who will try to catch you off guard and throw it under your feet when you are not watching.  Those petards can be very strong.
   You will also come across something called borrachos.  These are tubes which, once ignited, move around in frantic thrusts, with a long tail of sparks coming out of them.  They can look very scary, thrown into the middle of the crowd (and this does happen often...otherwise it wouldn't be funny for those who throw them) but they don't appear to be very harmful in reality.


   Try to keep your hands free and look around.  If you see a petard landing next to you...it is like something from a war movie with grenades.  You have a second to close your ears or your ears with start ringing.  Take care of your ears, those petards are no Christmas cracker.  They are the reason so many locals don't stay in Valencia for the Fallas and so many others are hearing impaired.
   It goes without saying that if you have a serious problem with sudden explosions, such as risk of heart attack, you should not come to the Fallas.
   On the other hand, if you like this kind of thing, come to Paseo Alameda on Nic de Foc.  On completion of the official fireworks, the biggest battle of Las Fallas will break out.  The locals call it La Guerra de Los Petardos.  Thousands of them will be thrown into the Turia river garden, but the battle will definitely spill out onto the Paseo Alameda itself and the crowds on it.  Be advised that Las Fallas in general, are not too worried about being "safe", and in  this fireworks  battle...even less so.


   The Institute of Holiday Studies has released the top ten fears that people face during the Holidays.
  1. Parkaphobia- The fear that you will circle and circle the parking lot for ever, never actually making it into the mall.  You will run out of gas on the 100th time you circle and you will slowly starve to death in your car.
  2. Planeaphobia- The fear that someone in your family will actually expect you to pick them up at the airport, when you even offer to pay for their taxi, no matter know much it costs.  Similar to parkaphobia, you will be doomed to circling the airport for ever, while their plane is an hour late, they stop for a Latte' on the way to the baggage counter, then spend two hours looking for their lost bag, which will come in tomorrow, meaning you get to make another trip to the airport.
  3. Giftaphobia-You and your new boyfriend are exchanging gifts for the first time on Christmas.  You both promised to keep it simple.  But what does "simple" mean to your boyfriend.  Will he give you a diamond and all you give him is a CD of his favorite band.  Or will he give you a blender, severing the relationship for ever and forcing you to find a new date for New Years.
  4. Treeaphobia- You constantly check the needles on the tree hoping they're not too dry, knowing that your family is doomed and will die in a blazing inferno when the tree catches on fire.  A characteristic of Treeaphobics is they buy the tree the day before Christmas and dispose of it on Christmas afternoon.
  5. Turkeyaphobia- Every year you have to check the Internet to see how many minutes per pound you need to cook the turkey.  Lurking in the back of your mind is that the turkey will be undercooked and that you and your guests will all be writhing on the floor dying of salmonella poisoning.  You always make the dog taste the turkey first.
  6. Bargainaphobia- You search the ads, circle the best buys, show up at the store five hours before it opens, but in the back of your mind, is the fear that your sister-in-law has out bargained you again and when you proudly show the computer you got for $400 dollars, she will announce that she got the same computer off the Internet for $250.  A common characteristic of bargainophobia is resisting the urge to strangle you sister-in-law.
  7. Elfaphobia- The fear that your fiance' will turn into an elf after you marry him and you will be forced to live with him forever because of that darn "till death do us part" bit that the minister snuck into your wedding vows.
  8. Cancel phobia- The fear that all the football players catch the swine flu at the same time and all the Holiday Bowl games are cancelled forcing you to actually sit down and TALK to your relatives, including Uncle Joe who lives in a shack in Montana and has pictures of the Uni-bomber all over his walls!
  9. Roofaphobia- The fear that Santa Claus will actually land his sleigh on your house.  All twelve reindeer weight at least one ton and scientists have estimated that Santa's sleigh and payload weights over 300,000 pounds.  Not to mention Santa himself, who is no lightweight himself.  This weight will not only ruin your roof, but totally crush your whole house.
  10. Fruitcakeaphobia- You dream that you made a bet with your brother-in-law on who would win the football game and you lose, thus being forced to eat an entire fruitcake in 10 minutes, washed down with some moldy eggnog.