Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Orthodox Celts – "The Wearing of the Green" (1997)

Saint Patrick's Day no more we'll keep
His color can't be seen
For they're hanging men and women
For the wearing of the green

St. Patrick, the primary patron saint of Ireland, was born in Roman Britain – perhaps in England, perhaps in Scotland, perhaps in Wales . . . but definitely not in Ireland.  It was only after he converted to Christianity as a young man that he decided to go to Ireland and be a missionary.

St. Patrick died on March 17, and the Irish have observed the date of his death as a religious holiday for hundreds of years.  But St. Patrick's Day wasn't a national holiday in Ireland until 1903.

St. Patrick
You'll never believe this, but the government required Irish pubs to close on St. Patrick's Day until 1970.  I'm serious – can you imagine that?  

Today, of course, most people associate St. Patrick's Day with getting hammered.  The only occasion that rivals St. Patrick's Day when it comes to drunkenness is New Year's Eve.

I once worked with a guy who drank ten times as much as anyone I've ever known.  He was Irish, of course.  But he wouldn't drink on St. Patrick's Day.  "That's when the amateurs go out to drink," he said.

Besides drinking too much, the most widely observed St. Patrick's Day custom is wearing green clothing.  

I myself am careful never to wear green on March 17 lest someone mistakenly assume that I am Irish.  (I don't wear orange either -- it has nothing to do with religion.)

St. Patrick is said to have used three-leaved shamrocks to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity to the Irish – who were apparently a little slow even when they weren't drinking.  (According to historians, that was almost never.)  So the Irish began to wear shamrocks and, eventually, green ribbons or other green items on March 17 in honor of St. Patrick.

St. Patrick's Day falls during Lent, but Irish priests waived the usual Lenten prohibition against the consumption of meat to allow their parishioners to eat corned beef and cabbage on the holiday.  

Actually, the Irish used to eat bacon and cabbage.  But then Irish immigrants who lived on New York City's Lower East Side learned about corned beef -- which was cheaper than bacon -- from their Jewish neighbors.  (Two stereotypes for the price of one today!)

She's definitely Irish
"The Wearing of the Green," a traditional Irish ballad, laments the repression of Irish revolutionaries by British loyalists in the late 18th century.  Wearing green ribbons or cockades to show support for Irish independence was considered seditious behavior by the authorities.  

The song has been recorded by many performers, including famed Irish tenor John McCormack and Judy Garland.  But the version that we are featuring today was recorded by the Orthodox Celts, which is a Serbian band that specializes in Irish folk music.

The Orthodox Celts traditionally play a concert in Belgrade every St. Patrick's Day.  They also are regulars at the Belgrade Beer Fest in August, a four-day or five-day event that attracts hundreds of thousands of foreign visitors annually (including many Irish).

Here's "The Wearing of the Green":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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