I grew up celebrating St. Patrick's Day at family gatherings, my aunts and uncles clustered around the piano where my mother banged out the chords for the familiar old songs she learned from her parents. A cassette tape survives of her father, Owen, singing Tooraloora, and it brings tears to our eyes whenever we hear it. I grew up singing the same songs around the piano, and eventually added to the trove of Irish songs I'd inherited by living and travelling in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Now, my sister hosts a St. Patrick's Day gathering at her house. We always head down a few days in advance, and perhaps the best part of the party is the preparing for it: making rolls of sandwiches and loaves of soda bread, swirling thick frosting on the tops of Guinness cupcakes, and making sure there is enough whisky for a toast or two to the ancestors who had the courage to set off to seek their fortunes in Canada in the mid-19th century.
My mother plays the out-of-tune piano, we dedicate "Danny Boy" to my little brother, and we experience the delight of watching our children starting to sing along to the songs that we learned when we were young. We see the ones who came before us in our children's pale skin, freckles, sparkling eyes, and dark hair, and in their love of music, dance, family, and laughter.
We feel lucky to be descended from the Irish.