HUNTINGDON, PA, March 17, 2012 - St. Patrick’s Day brings to mind jaunty Irish jigs, shamrocks, pots of gold, leprechauns, and the vivacious, courageous Irish spirit, which is heard in their music and woven in their rich, colorful stories of fairies, rainbows, and tradition.
So how do Irish descendants commemorate St. Patrick’s Day, the day when the Irish are celebrated for all that they are? Carol Higgins Clark, acclaimed author of the Regan Reilly Mystery Series and daughter of author Mary Higgins Clark, spoke fondly about her Irish heritage and traditions in an interview with The Washington Times Communities.
On St. Patrick’s Day, Carol Higgins Clark and her family enjoy watching the annual parade in New York City and dining at Neary’s on “wonderful corn beef and cabbage” with family and friends. “What else would you do?!!” Clark asked.
Last year, Carol’s mother served as the grand marshal of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City. “We always enjoy going to the parade in New York City, especially last year. My mother was the grand marshal! It was the 250th anniversary of the parade and my mother was the fourth woman in history to be grand marshal.”
Carol’s mother was certainly deserving of the position as grand marshal of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Not only is Mary Higgins Clark a best-selling novelist, but also well known for her pride in her Irish heritage. She is the daughter of an Irish immigrant who came to America as a young man. “My grandfather came over from Ireland when he was about 20 and came through Ellis Island. He was from Roscommon. Unfortunately, he died when my mother was eleven, so I never got to meet him. But I’ve always heard stories about the family,” Carol Higgins Clark explained.
Not surprisingly, the aspect about her Irish heritage that Carol appreciates the most is storytelling. “The part of being of Irish descent that I like the best is being a storyteller, which Irish are known for. I also love the fact that many people who are Irish have a great sense of humor.”
Both Carol and her mother, Mary, are prolific storytellers, having composed close to one hundred books between them. Mary Higgins Clark began writing books in the late 1960s and has since produced close to 46 novels, most, if not all, bestsellers. Carol has written 13 New York Times’ best-selling novels, the Reagan Reilly Mystery Series, as well as five Christmas mysteries, which she co-wrote with her mother. Carol incorporates a sense of humor and fun into her Regan Reilly Series, perhaps another way of honoring her Irish heritage.
“My character, Reagan Reilly, is of Irish descent - then she marries a man named Jack Reilly! So, I do use my Irish background (in her books). In my book, Laced, they go to Ireland for their honeymoon,” Clark said.
Clark aptly brings the beauty of the Irish countryside to life in her novel, Laced. Carol’s descriptions of the verdant green hillsides, brilliant blue skies, and castles and other uniquely designed architecture, enhance her other myriad storytelling skills, drawing the reader into the books and bringing the characters to life.
Perhaps Clark draws upon her own memories of Ireland when writing her books. “I’ve visited Ireland several times and I love it,” she said.
Clark even incorporates a unique Irish appearance in describing her main character, Reagan Reilly. Reilly is described as a “Black Irish” - which is an accurate description of Clark’s appearance as well. She explained that “Black Irish” have dark hair, fair skin, and blue eyes. “I don’t know the origin of the term. I have looked it up, but there are many theories about it.
Mary Higgins Clark also talks about their Irish heritage in a YouTube video (produced last year prior to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade) that is posted at the end of the column. She speaks fondly of her memories of her father who “never saw his mother again” after coming to America. “She sent him dried shamrocks for every St. Patrick’s Day.”
Shamrocks and leprechauns are well known as part of Irish legends and folklore. Shamrocks are said to represent the Christian trinity because of the clover being three-leafed. Leprechauns are elf-like men who are said to have access to pots of gold.
As Clark mentioned, the Irish are known for their story-telling abilities, including those spun about fairies, most notably leprechauns, creating mischief or good will.
St. Patrick’s Day is said to have originated in Ireland has a cultural, as well as religious, holiday, celebrated on March 17. It is said that Patrick was one of the first Irishmen to use the shamrock or “three-leafed” clover to describe the trinity.
In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is a day of feasting and celebrating, much like the way the holiday is observed here. The Irish do not observe “the wearing of the green,” contrary to the American tradition. In Ireland, the saying refers to wearing a shamrock on one’s clothing, not to dress entirely in green.
For families interested in making St. Patrick’s Day traditions, Clark suggested, “A St. Patrick’s Day tradition that a family might enjoy would be to cook an Irish meal or at least Irish soda bread. It also might be interesting to research your family’s history.”
If your family is of Irish descent, the research would be all the more apropos.
As most are aware, Irish blessings are often quoted for their wise words or their melodic sound. Clark said that her favorite blessing is -
May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rain fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
The blessings exemplify the Irish spirit. “The Irish will always find something shining on a bad day,” said Mary Higgins Clark in the video that follows.
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