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Christmas in… March!

Traditionally the saying normally goes “Christmas in July” but for me, March has always been the favorite time of year, the month I most look forward to! Why you ask? Because of St. Patrick’s Day…my true Christmas.

I come from a heavily Irish family. If I were to take a DNA test I would be 70% potatoes, 10% Irish Bread, 10% Guinness, and 10% Jameson—that kind of heavily Irish. My grandmother grew up in Ireland with her brothers and sisters on the O’Malley Family Farm in County Mayo. She came to America in her early 20’s and kept the Irish culture alive and well in my family. A boiled dinner with corned beef and lots of veggies isn’t just for March—it was a Sunday night staple at my grandmother’s house.

So it should come as no surprise that I am also an avid Irish dancer. My mom enrolled me in classes at the Haley School of Irish Dance when I was 4 years old and I fell in love. All the spinning and shuffling and stomping – my 4 year old self was ENCOURAGED to be as loud as possible and jump around like, in the words of my dance teacher, “a Mexican jumping bean”! I was in heaven.

The more I danced, the more in love I fell with my Irish culture. St. Patrick’s day at school meant going all out—plaid skirt with a large pin fastening it (the 5 year old girl’s version of a kilt) paired with my favorite Irish sweater and a green headband. It became my uniform each year on that day for as long as it fit. I also loved showing off my dancing skills to my classmates and passing out Irish chocolate—aahhh Cadbury!

As I’ve grown up, my St. Paddy’s Day fashion has evolved into an extremely curly dance wig and an overly bedazzled costume. By the time I entered high school, I danced anywhere I could in March. “Dancing out” on St. Patrick’s Day is figure dancing in a big group with lots of clapping and smiling. You’re truly putting on a show! We dance everywhere: from a 30’-40’ wide stage in churches and schools, to a 4’ x 4’ piece of plywood in a restaurant or bar.

We dance in places big and small for a crowd of 3 or 300 because of how important of a day it is to the Irish Community. Not only as an ode to the religious figure of St. Patrick, but also as a day to come together and celebrate—it’s the ultimate party. And Irish dancing is the best way to celebrate!

After 19 years of dancing, I still go “dance out” every St. Patrick’s Day. And I get the best of both worlds. I am old enough to appreciate the deeply rooted traditions of St. Patrick’s Day. But I also get to celebrate with dancing and a drink!

So, when St. Patrick’s Day arrives, pour yourself a Guinness, grab your best green shirt, clap along to Galway Girl and No, Ney, Never and celebrate like you’re from the heart of Ireland, even if you aren’t, because it’s worth it– trust me!

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