Luck of the Irish

Four Leaf CloverToday is Saint Patrick’s Day, the national day of the country of Ireland. A saint is considered a very holy person in the Christian religion. St. Patrick (notice the abbreviation for “saint” is St.) was a famous priest who worked and lived in Ireland more than 16 centuries (1600 years) ago. There are many stories told about St. Patrick, some of them true, some of them not. One famous story says that he drove (got rid of, eliminated) all of the snakes from Ireland. (But Ireland didn’t actually have any snakes in that period! The Irish are famous for telling good stories, however.)

During the 19th century, there were many Irish who left their country and came to the United States. The Irish in America became powerful in government and in the leadership of the Catholic Church. Even today, more than 150 years later, there are many Irish-Americans in these two areas. One of the most famous Irish-American politicians, John F. Kennedy, became president in 1960. Most of the Catholic leaders today are still Irish-Americans, including the leader of the church in Los Angeles and other big cities.

Many Irish immigrants settled (moved to and lived) in large American cities such as Boston, New York, and Chicago. St. Paul, Minnesota, was also a popular place for the Irish. When I was growing up in St. Paul, many of the leaders of the city were still Irish-Americans. My great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother, Mary McQuillan, came to St. Paul in the 1840s, and there have been McQuillans there ever since (since that time). I remember growing up, there was always a parade (a celebration with people walking through the streets) on St. Patrick’s Day. My family always went downtown to march (walk) in the parade representing the McQuillans of St. Paul. Everyone would wear green (the color of Ireland) and those old enough would drink beer and have a good time. (Even those not old enough would sometimes drink at times!)

At my elementary (grade) school, about half of the students were Irish-American. There were also a lot of German-Americans who lived in St. Paul, and many students came from German-American families. So on St. Patrick’s Day, we would have the Irish-German Games, a competition between the Irish and German students. (If you were not German or Irish, you could choose which team to play on.) I think the Irish usually won, but perhaps that is because I was always on the Irish team :).

I don’t do much to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day here in Los Angeles, but my brothers back in St. Paul usually get together at a bar owned by one of my cousins to have a drink. The Irish are considered to be very lucky (fortunate), and we sometimes speak of the “luck of the Irish.” I feel lucky being able to be part of ESL Podcast, so I guess the saying (expression) is true.


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6 Responses to Luck of the Irish

  1. rama says:

    hi dear jeff
    Thank you for your explanation. my daughter said to me yesterdy that we should wear green clothes on patrick`s day and she did today. I could`nt underestand the purpose of her saying
    . but you did`nt explain the story complitely for instance ,who were the snakes which patrick drove them from ireland.
    anyway thank you for your website and keep up your good working
    Rama. Iran. Canada

  2. emiliano says:

    Dear Jeff, it is nice to see that you and your family being Americans also feel yourselves as Irish, and remember your Éire country and tradictions along generations. I would like to ask you if you or your family. parents or brothers, have been there (Éire) recently or some time before.
    Curiously Irlandeses, Bretones, Galeses, Escoces, and Gallegos come from the same celtic branch and have similar folklore since centuries. My mother ancestors were gallegos, so I feel close to their music and feelings.
    Gallegos, same as Irish, goes all over the world and they carry their lenguage, customs, religion, and some kind of identity among other people whereever place they live or they establish.
    I hope you have celebrate your Saint Patrick’s Day accordingly.
    Best wishes to you and to all “your big family” Jeff. You know you are always in our heart, your ESL listeners and friends.

  3. Henry L. says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Thank you for sharing. Today I didn’t watch the parade in the city but I had a green Irish cookie and a Irish soda bread. Yummy… 🙂

    Wish you all are doing well and best ever regards!

    Henry Luong
    Edgewater, NJ

  4. Dong Choi says:


    I’ve got a question for you. Today, my son was pinched from his friends in the school just for fun since he didn’t wear green clothes (not serious, don’t worry about it….:)). Is there any reason or custom on this like repelling ghost or something like that?? Just out of curiosity.

    Thanks, Dong

  5. Valeriy says:

    Hi Jeff!
    I’d like to thank you especially for your good style of writing and sense of humor that make English as understandable for me as my mother tongue.

  6. Jeff says:

    To answer some of your questions:
    -I don’t know the origin of the “snakes in Ireland” story, but I’m guessing that snakes represent evil or sin, which was a common association in the Jewish and Christian traditions. So St. Patrick driving the “snakes” out of Ireland perhaps represented him driving out sin and evil from the island.
    -There’s an expression that sometimes people put on t-shirts and buttons: “Pinch Me, I’m Irish.” Some people say it started with children many years ago who would pinch other children who forgot to wear the traditional color of St. Patrick (and Ireland), green, on St. Patrick’s Day.

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