Not Irish!
Off The Wall, March 18, 2011

Sorry folks. I realize there are a lot of Irish in Latrobe and surrounding towns, but I ain’t one of them. Now, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with them their kind. That would be stupid to even imply such a comment. No, I’m German, right down to the core. How can I be anything else with a name like Volkmann, especially with the two n’s on the end. There’s something about those last two letters that seals the fact.

With that said, I still want to talk a bit about this day, for those who are of that descent surely are in celebration, doing one thing or another, possibly parading around towns in their apparel of green, boasting about their ancestry in one form or another. If I have a stitch of green on, it won’t be by purpose, but strictly by accident.

Maybe I should now talk a little bit about how this holiday that’s not a full-fledged holiday got started.

Originally a Catholic holiday, it was named after a saint who lived from 387 to 461 AD. In addition to St. Patrick’s Day, it is also referred to as St. Paddy’s Day, Patrick’s Day, Paddy’s Day and Patty’s Day. According to some sources it has since become more of a secular celebration of Ireland’s culture.

Originally, the color associated with St. Patrick was blue. Over the years, the color green and its association with Saint Patrick’s Day grew. Green ribbons and shamrocks were worn in the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day as early as the 17th century.

He is said to have used the shamrock, a three-leafed plant, to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish, and the wearing and display of shamrocks and shamrock-inspired designs have become a ubiquitous feature of the day. Adding a little more history, in the 1798 rebellion, in hopes of making a political statement, Irish soldiers wore full green uniforms on March 17 in hopes of catching public attention.

The phrase “the wearing of the green,” meaning to wear a shamrock on one’s clothing, derives from a song of the same name.

The Irish Society of Boston organized what was not only the first Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in the colonies, but the first recorded Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in the colonies. This parade in Boston involved Irish immigrant workers marching to make a political statement about how they were not happy with their low social status and their inability to obtain jobs in America.

Finally, on the brighter side, the Chicago River, so I’ve read, is supposedly dyed green each year for the St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Tell me St. Patrick hasn’t left a mark on society for the Irish or non-Irish celebrants! However, with all that said, I’m still not going to clad myself in green just to fit in. I can just hear someone say, “Hey Volkmann, be a sport, wear green this very one day.” I have to admit it may be tempting just to fit in, but I’m not going to budge, not only for a short amount of time. It just isn’t me.

So, I’m a stick-in-the mud. Maybe if I can start a trend of not feeling forced to wear green, others may follow. Now, that’s not to say I going to get out of the closet lederhosen pants and parade around town in these short leather pants held in place with suspenders. When I was a kid, I wore them briefly in Germany. I’m sorry to say, they really aren’t my cup of tea. Besides, my long underwear would show. Glory be, we can’t let that happen.

I think if God wanted me to become Irish, He would have made sure I would have been the youngster of some family of Irish descent, or even a member of a family in Ireland.

But He didn’t. He always knows what He is doing when He creates human beings to be born and originate somewhere in this world with a particular background.

Praise God, He put me here as a German. I have nothing against the Irish, and a matter of fact, we all get along quite well. Isn’t that special? But that’s the way it’s supposed to be? The beauty of God’s creation is that we are not all of one background, but made up of many. The trick is to get along with each other. We can do so, you know.

It really matters not what from culture you descended. What is important is that we each strive to get along with our neighbor regardless of our garb. Underneath all that color is a God-made person that carries the Holy Spirit that He gave us when we were baptized. We should be loving to all especially during this Lenten season, and not let color get in the way. So, if you want to take part in the celebration of the Irish, more power to you. But just because you aren’t Irish, don’t feel embarrassed. Go for it and whoop it up if you feel so led. But this old fuddy-duddy German is going to stay home.


- Paul J. Volkmann
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