Ireland, the lush and mystical land with 40 shades of green. My time spent there had more Craic than I knew how to handle. The Irish are a lively bunch whose warm hospitality, love of their rich cultural past and affinity for a good time will leave a lasting impression on any who travel there. While any of these reasons are more than good enough to catch one of the many flights to Ireland, I would like to share some of the more lighthearted facts and bits of wisdom I learned living there.
Some of those Shades of Green
The Plastic Paddy is a person, mostly in reference to Americans, who adopt Irish culture as their own without having much, if any cultural ties to Ireland. This is a very broadly used terminology that many fit into. How many of us celebrate Saint Patrick’s day with no knowledge of his truly great tales while he traveled Ireland during the 5th Century. I for one did, while completely in the dark that it was the saint himself who banished all the snakes from the shores of Ireland. I've heard it laughed over on an occasion or two, of the fact that New Yorkers in particular are quick to claim descent from Ireland, if it suits their fancy for an occasion. I find that oddly, this holds truth. Who wouldn't want to be associated with such a merry and wonderful people.
Giant's Causeway was in fact created by a giant, which is the reason it bears the name. Ireland has a rich history in myth and lore that date back to it's pre-christian period. Some of these ancient practices and beliefs are carried into more contemporary stories and popular culture. Much of the older pagan religion can be associated with the lineage of story telling and mysticism. Giants are one of these iconic figures that have been present in Irish mythology for many years.
In the case of the Giant's Causeway it was the great Irish warrior Finn McCool who outwitted his larger Scottish counterpart Benandonner by disguising himself as a baby. It was Benandonner who fled in fear, tearing up the bridge from Ireland to Scotland that Finn had built. When Benandonner saw the giant Finn in disguise, he ran all the way back to Scotland for fear of the enormous size of this gigantic babie's father.
I guess there is a way out of any situation if you are clever enough!
Paddy Wagon is the term given to police vans that were used to haul off unruly prisoners who were resisting arrest in the United States early in the 20th century. There are at least two versions to the story as to how they acquired their name, both of which are rooted in the Irish immigrant communities that dotted American cities of the time. I was told the name derived from the fact that the ranks of many of the police forces across the nation at the time, had a high proportion of members with Irish ancestry. Paddy, which is a shortening of the common Irish name Patrick was given to these vans usually driven by Irish police officers.
The other conflicting story, which I was unaware of says these iconic police vans bare their names because of the New York Draft riots of 1863. The draft had a waiver that allowed you to buy your way out. Since the Irish immigrants in the city were some of the poorest during this time, they could not afford this waiver and instead choose to show their discontent in a series of riots across NYC. The large number of Irish needing to be carted away to jail gave rose to the name, which has stuck to this day.
My time in Ireland was some of the most whimsically inspiring for me I have spent abroad. There was always great merriment and conversation to be had. If you were willing to listen you could always find an Irishman to share a good ale and strike up a fascinating conversation, possibly learning some of the ancient local lore.