Enjoy the luck of the Irish while helping DCCA


By Marilyn Delk


Darke County Center for the Arts annual “Irish Wave” fundraiser celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with Irish music, Irish food, and beer on Friday, March 15; sounds like fun, but if you don’t already have your tickets, you can’t go, as the event has been sold out for weeks. However tickets are still available for the chance to be the lucky winner of an actual trip to the Emerald Isle; more about that later. First, let’s explore the world-wide enthusiasm for a holiday celebrating a fifth century Christian missionary who tradition tells us died on March 17, 461.

Due to the many myths and legends surrounding him, reviewing the life and times of the saint is somewhat complicated. Patrick, born into a wealthy British family where his father was a deacon and his grandfather a priest in the Christian church, was kidnapped by Irish raiders at the age of 16, and taken to Gaelic Ireland where he worked as a shepherd. Tradition says that after six years, Patrick was told by God to flee to the coast where a ship would be waiting to return the young man to his home. After returning home, Patrick became a priest, and eventually returned to Ireland to convert the pagan natives to Christianity. His evangelical efforts to do away with heathen practices have been described as “driving the snakes out of Ireland,” although actual snakes were not known to inhabit the region.

It is not exactly clear how Patrick’s life led to the traditions and fun-filled festivals that now surround St. Patrick’s Day, although in a story that first appeared in writing in 1726, Patrick was said to have used shamrocks to explain the Holy Trinity. The “wearing of the green” is associated with an eleventh century legend where Gaelic ancestor Goidel the Green, bitten by a venomous snake, was saved from death by Moses placing his staff on the snakebite and leaving a green mark; Goidel’s descendants then settled in Ireland, a land that was free from snakes. A green harp flag representing “Ireland’s unconquered soul”was used by the Irish Catholic Confederation in the 1640’s, and green ribbons and shamrocks have been worn on St. Patrick’s Day since the 1680’s; Ireland was first called “the Emerald Isle” in a 1795 poem “When Erin First Rose.”

St. Patrick’s Day falls during Lent, so it became a day for Christians to take a break from the abstinences practiced during the weeks leading up to Easter; by the 1700’s the holiday had started to take a decidedly more festive turn than its founders had intended, shifting from a religious observation to a secular celebration of Irish heritage. Irish-Americans in Boston held the USA’s first St. Patrick’s Day celebration in 1737; the New York City parade, begun in 1762, is the largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world. Chicago’s parade was first held in 1843, eventually leading to the well-known tradition of dyeing the Chicago River green, which began in 1962.

And for several years now DCCA has annually hosted a fun-filled St. Patrick’s Day event featuring Irish music, Irish food, and an assortment of beers, attracting as many party-goers as Montage can legally hold. This year the music will once again be provided by Sons O’Blarney, a talented trio whose renditions of new and traditional Celtic tunes will enhance the festivities. Montage proprietors Aaron and Michele Cox will provide a vast array of delectible Irish specialties, and a good time will be had by all in attendance, which, unless you already have your ticket, will not include you.

But there IS a way you can join the fun and support DCCA. Tickets are still available for the aforementioned “Off to the Isle” raffle; if the luck of the Irish is with you, you will win a trip for two to the Emerald Isle while supporting your local arts organization. Only 75 raffle tickets will be sold at $100 each, and you need not be present to win; to get yours, contact DCCA at 937-547-0908.

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