Lee's Whidbey: Irish Green Replaces Dutch Blue

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Irish Green Replaces Dutch Blue
by Lee O'Brainard

During the month of March, everyone in OÕCarbor is Irish. Even the Hollanders trade in their Dutch blue for Irish green during this annual spring fling, and the Norwegians have their own green group ready on standby.

The Irish Wildlife Society is firming up plans for their annual St. Patrick's Day Parade and celebration. Everyone who wishes can get into the act. The parade moves west on Pioneer Way to City Beach on Monday, March 17, at 3:30 p.m. Captain Black, NAS Commanding Officer is Grand Marshal, and he and Mayor Patty Cohen will lead the parade down to City Beach Park where they will kiss the Blarney Stone, after the Rev. David Lura and Father Heffernan (who returns from Bremerton for the occasion) have blessed it. There will be lots of music and entertainment, ending with a family singalong at a local 'pub.'

Besides the Sons of Norway, two new features this year are the Crab Queens and the Oak Harbor Lodge of the International Possum Brotherhood. Also, families are encouraged to carry signs declaring their family clan names. If you don't have one, make it up.

St. Pat's Day is a good old American custom that makes it okay to be Irish; to wear something green; to drink green drinks; and to see and talk to little green men, affectionately called leprechauns. It does make a change from pink elephants and white rabbits.

It also is said, by those in the know, that the arms of the windmill at City Beach begin to turn at midnight on St. Patrick's Day!

St. Patrick is Ireland's patron saint. March 17th is celebrated each year, not as the saint's birthday since nobody seems to know when it was, but as the anniversary of his death in 493 A.D. According to Roman Catholic authorities, St. Patrick was not even born in Ireland, but was captured by Irish marauders at about age 16 and sold into slavery on that green isle that was to become his home. He spent six years there, tending swine, learning the Celtic language, and observing irish customs. Those early years in Ireland greatly influenced his decision to return later and convert the Irish from their irreligious ways.

Legend has it that Patrick, whose original name was Maewyn, one day saw a vision and heard a voice say, 'Behold, a ship is ready for thee.' He walked away from his master's sheep, and reached a ship on the coast of Ireland that took him back to his former home in Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton, Scotland.

He entered the monastery of St. Martin at Tours, France, where he became a priest, and later a bishop. In 432 he sailed back to where he had been held captive. There, in true Irish style, he met with much opposition from the Druids, who resented his invading the land with Christian ideas and converting their followers. When the Druids tried to stone him, he escaped to sanctuary in his former master's home. He paid the price of his freedom, then is said to have baptised the entire family into Christianity. During the next 40 years, St. Patrick worked 'with apostolic zeal' in Ireland. He preached to countless persons, baptized thousands, established churches, schools and at least one college.

The most popular legend about St. Patrick is that he banished all the snakes and toads from Ireland. The second most popular legend is that he taught the Irish how to distill alcohol. This was undoubtedly so that they could still see the snakes he had so laboriously banished.

When St. Patrick died on March 17, 493, thousands of mourners came from long distances to his funeral. In a shroud made for him, St. Patrick was buried on the hill of Down, at Downpatrick, in Ireland. Although the irish used to have parades and parties in his honor, in recent times, in Ireland at least, the day has become a holy one and the public houses close.

Not so in O'Carbor, America. Here, as throughout the United States, parades and festivities are held. The first observance on record was celebrated in Boston in 1787. Anyone wishing to join O'Carbor's parade is welcome. Vehicles should be decorated, and musicians, kids and pets, whether Irish or not, are encouraged to 'wear the green' and take part.

So, what else is going on in Oak Harbor?
Island County 4-H is in need of help after all the cutbacks this year, so Oak Harbor Soroptimists have taken them on as a special project. Shades of Kow Korner, a '50s-'60s dance is being held at the Oak Harbor Elks Club, which will be turned into Dillinger's Diner for the evening. All proceeds are going to help out those great kids who help out Soroptimists at Christmas Village. Without them, there wouldn't be a Children's Zoo each December.

If you've driven through Oak Harbor on a holiday, you will see all the colorful and patriotic flags waving in the wind along the highway and streets. The Oak Harbor Lions Club puts them out on each special day during the year to remind us of our freedom. Also, we have happy and sad . . . squadrons coming home and squadrons leaving. Oh well, we're a Navy town.

But that doesn't help the schools much anymore, so there is the 'vote for kids' bond issue to fix the dilapidated high school on March 11. Please vote!
And let's not forget the Dutch. As soon as they get all those Irish out of their hair on March 17th, the Holland Happening committee will go into high gear planning their annual 3-day festival and parade. This will be the 34th Annual Holland Happening, set for the last weekend in April.

More on that later.