The end of Feb. 14 symbolizes something else in my mind. It’s not a cause to celebrate the ones I love or party my hopeless romantics away. Another thing is front and center: next season. The next month: March. The second-greatest month of them all (July is number one). As my good friend and fellow page editor, Alli Dempsey, says, “It’s when the Irish princess reigns.”
And that’s not an understatement.
My household loves to celebrate, we even have an annual party to bring family together and have a grand ol’ time. We used to have pots of gold races in our backyard for the kids, little chocolate coins wrapped up in the finest store-bought-plated gold, each one branded with a shamrock for good luck. Kudos to my mom. Her art skills and creative mind work overtime during this season, especially in part with handling four rambunctious children. Her Irish soda bread and mashed potatoes are to die for, generational family recipes and all that. As my mom cooks up the food, my dad handles the activities, alcohol and music. There is not a day where The Dubliners or The Pogues aren’t playing. Once I had to play “Danny Boy” on piano in front of my nanny who is a fanatic of the song — nerve wracking, to say the least.
For those who are wondering: why are you and your family so into this holiday? Maybe you haven’t been reading between the lines so I’ll explain simply. We’re Irish Catholic. We breed like rabbits, we’re everywhere and you cannot escape us. We will consume and conquer. Just kidding about that last part, got a little too excited. But one thing is for certain, we are proud of our heritage. From adversity from English bastards causing the famine to nativist Americans’ discrimination against us, we have the means to celebrate the American dream. At home in Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day was a modest means to host family — but here we can throw it in the face of all who despise us.
Our heritage is what holds us together. Festivities, music, dancing, drinking, camaraderie, life, happiness. But where does this line between celebrating legacy and making money on camaraderie lie? Because anyone can put on green and join the fun, that’s what we’re all about. But is dyeing everything green really necessary? Do the fishes in the Chicago River deserve to swim through viridescent waters? Does every St. Patty’s Day sale need to be decorated with rainbows and verdant sparkles?
When the end of February rolls around, it’s like the color green itself vomited everything and everywhere. Shamrocks, rainbows, leprechauns, pots of gold, flags, banners, socks, hats, sunglasses, cups, towels, lights, crystals, green, Green, GREEN!
When lovey-dovey designs die, the green ice cream machine makes mint-flavored shakes rich in emerald food dye. McDonald’s is most renowned for capitalizing on this seasonal switch, first introducing the Shamrock Shake back in the 1970s as a means to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Did you know that originally the shake consisted of a regular vanilla shake with lemon/lime sherbert plopped on top? It wasn’t until 50 years ago, in 1973, when the delicious and better decision was made to include a peppermint flavor.
In the 1980s, McDonald’s introduced a new character to make Shamrock Shake season the pinnacle in children’s minds. His name was Uncle O’Grimacey, an Irish relative of Grimace. You could tell he was Irish because his fur was green and he talked in a funny accent. He has since disappeared from the McDonaldland’s roster of characters. Shamrock Shakes weren’t the only item on the lucky menu, Shamrock Sundaes came into play, this dessert consisted of vanilla ice cream topped with a mint green drizzle — unfortunately the product was discontinued after one year due to poor sales. But one thing after another, is it all worth it?
I don’t know about y’all, but the McDonald’s ice cream machine is notoriously not very dependable. According to the company, the color comes from five drops of yellow and one blue, and the flavor is from its own “legendary” trademarked syrup.
The shake is sold from Feb. 20 until March 17, the limited time guarantees a buy-in. I’m one of those buy-ins. My family is one of those, hell, I think every one is. What’s the harm in buying something that’s not gonna be around all-year, right? But is it really worth it? Is it symbolic of the March season coming around or are we just believing what the constant advertisements say? Is it the hype for partying or is it for family? So many questions, not enough answers. Just make sure you’re wearing green while asking, and don’t you forget it.