The Gift O’ Blarney

St. Patrick's Day Parade - Dublin - 2007 -_Lord_Mayors_State_Coach

By Judy Berman

Tiny droplets cling to a blade of grass on a gorgeous spring morning. The timing is perfect.

As a teen, I would rush out and grab the dew from our lawn and spread it over the freckles on my face.

Mom told me this is the way to get rid of freckles.

Dew on green plant

Flash forward. There was no scientific merit to that Irish superstition.

I had better luck searching through our lawn for four-leaf clovers.

This is just part of the Irish folklore I grew up with. My Mom and my Dad are both part-Irish. Her ancestors hail from the south, my Dad’s from the north.

It was one of many contradictions in my DNA.

Some years on St. Paddy’s Days, I wore green. Some I wore orange (to represent Northern Ireland). Others, I wore a black armband to mourn the troubles in Ireland that have created a huge rift that is yet to be healed in this beautiful country.

But Ireland’s stronghold on my imagination and heritage drew me to it years ago.  We made the trek to Blarney. There, we kissed the stone to acquire the gift of eloquence. (story is here)

A woman leans backwards to kiss the Blarney Stone.
A woman leans backwards to kiss the Blarney Stone.

One well-known for the gift of gab is a leprechaun. But a chance encounter could be risky.

How do you avoid a mischievous leprechaun? Mom said you should go out a different door than you entered because a leprechaun might be lying in wait for you to pull a trick on you.

Some websites on Irish lore disagree. Their theory is to enter and leave by the same door.

But Mom’s made sense.

Dad, an electronics engineer, might have raised a skeptical eyebrow at some of these stories. He had a very logical mind. Think: Mr. Spock, with a wonderfully warped sense of humor.

Still, Dad went along with the gag

These superstitions, folklore and traditions also became part of the fabric of my family’s life when our daughters were growing up.

Green mashed potatoes? Yep, we did that. I also tried green dye in the milk. Our girls loved it.

But corned beef and cabbage? Never. Our staple was ham and cabbage. Or, mustard-roasted chicken with spring cabbage, carrots and potatoes.

Irish dinner - Mustard Roasted Chicken and Spring Cabbage - 3-16-14

Check the crowds at the St. Patrick’s Day parade. You might see me waving at you across the way.

Before I leave, I’d like to share an Irish blessing: “May the best day of your life be the worst day of your future.”

 “Erin go Bragh” … Long live Ireland.


What traditions, folklore or superstitions were part of your growing up years?



Photo: St. Patrick’s Day Parade – Dublin – Lord Mayor’s State Coach – taken March 17, 2007 by William Murphy

Photo: Dew on green plant – Taken: August 2003. Author: Luke Elstad.

Photo: Blarney Stone – woman kissing the Blarney Stone (Blarney   Castle, Ireland) – August 2002

Photo: An Irish meal we made to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day: mustard-roasted chicken, spring cabbage, carrots and potatoes. 

  1. Hello Judy in Florida! We lived for years in Clinton, Mass., a town known for the huge amount of Irish that settled there. Everybody is an O’Malley or O’Toole, it seems. There were so many Irish that the well-known Massachusetts accent doesn’t exist there; instead natives speak a sort of unique brogue with major hints of Ireland in it. Boiled dinners were huge at this time of year!

    1. Barbara … There were many Irish in Syracuse, New York where I lived for many years. On Tipperary Hill, the west side of Syracuse, there is a stop light – the green tops the lights. Not the red. I love the Irish brogue and boiled dinners. Clinton, Mass sounds like my kind of town. 😉

  2. Nice post and I agree with your mother’s Leprechauns-evading logic.

    No traditions in my life other than the ones we established ourselves. Nothing heritage-specific either as I’ve never really identified with any particular culture (an uncultured slob, be I), but I do like reading about other people’s traditions.

    . . . although, no way I’m kissing a stone that Leprechaun-knows how many others have kissed.

    1. Our family also celebrated German traditions (Pennsylvania-Deutsche or Pennsylvania-Dutch), French and Irish. The only ones in my heritage that were left out was the English and the Swiss. I didn’t know any of their traditions or folk tales. I also adopted some of my godparents’ Italian traditions such as St. Joseph’s Day on March 19th. Just another reason to party. 😉

      Disperser … Smart thinking, hygiene-wise, on not kissing the Blarney Stone. 😉

  3. Your parents sound like delightful people Judy. I love the folklore and traditions you lived. I wish your a Happy St. Patty’s day filled with green mashed potatoes, beer and even milk! ❤
    Diana xo

    1. Top o’ the morning to you, Diana. Thank you, My parents were great fun and delightful storytellers. Whether or not, you’re Irish, Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Yes, I’ve had green beer, too.* Correction: I’m not sure I ever had green beer. 😉

  4. No Irish in our family, but definitely a bit of the Scottish. Dad was convinced that we had claim to some baronial hall in the highlands. We do have the right to wear a certain tartan though, and have an old family crest – the motto being ‘firth fortune and fill the fetters. ‘ your guess is as good as mine 😄

    1. Actually, Jenny, I think I’m part Scotch-Irish, too. I’m the Heinz-57 varieties n collective cultures. I love your Scottish motto and, yes, I can’t guess on what it means either. 😉

  5. I liked that you wished you didn’t have freckles, Judy. Personal parts of stories capture my interest. One of my best friends was named Amy and her sister, Martha, along with their mother, Mrs. Davies all had freckles. They thought of some kind of facial bleach when they were teens, the kind you put on facial hair. I have not thought of these dear friends for quite some time, so this was great. (Dew won’t work, so glad to let me know about this little superstition or tall tale, too.) I like corned beef and cabbage but sometimes my Dad would ask me to make my delicious Reubens which have some of the same ingredients but for a whole different ethnic community. Your table looks so attractive. Your meal looks and sounds delicious. Smiles!

    1. Robin … I’m happy this story reminded you of your friends. Actually, now, I think freckles are really cute. Our granddaughter has them and she looks lovely.

      While I like corned beef and cabbage in a Reuben sandwich, our family always had ham and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day. I was stunned the first time I went into a restaurant and only corned beef and cabbage was on the menu. Even in the German restaurant we went to in Syracuse had ham and cabbage.

      Thank you for your compliment on our meal. I found an Irish cookbook last year and we had to try it out. It was yummy! 😉

      1. I enjoy the idea of ham and it may be healthier, less fatty than the corned beef. I enjoy cabbage but have to light candles or turn on candle warmers, because after I have eaten, I don’t like the smell.
        I have 1/4 Swedish 1/4 English 1/4 German and 1/4 Scottish. I have always enjoyed Celtic music and Irish jigs, too. The music is very lively and pleasant and green is one of my favorite colors, too. Judy, I think it is funny that even the German restaurant had ham instead of corned beef, back in Syracuse….
        I am wishing to have some of this food tonight! Doesn’t certain foods make your mouth water? Smiles back at you!

      2. Robin … Just thinking about certain foods makes my mouth water. I understand about the smell, but I also love sauerkraut – especially on a hot dog which I haven’t had in ages. 😉

  6. Nice, Judy. Syracuse St. Patrick’s Day Parade is a week from today. And as you recall, it’s a biggie. 🙂 Everybody’s Irish up here that day.

    1. I know I will miss the excitement on Tip Hill and Coleman’s, You’re right. Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.

      Mark. I’ll drink to your health and ruin my own. (I think that’s another Irish blessing.) 😉

  7. We “kissed” the Blarney stone in Ireland, but I’m not sure I really made contact with the surface kissed by millions of others. Surely a money-making proposition, as some superstitions are.

    We live in an Irish-named community with streets like Killarney, Emerald Isle Circle, St. Patrick Lane, Leprechaun Court, and of course Blarney Stone. Interestingly, over the years the O’Neills and Dunleavys have been replaced with Bosnian and Burmese families. We are cosmopolitan these days as are so many other neighborhoods in Jacksonville.

    The Irish blessing back to you, Judy! And you certainly don’t need to kiss the Blarney Stone to acquire the gift of eloquence as your many commenters would attest.

    1. Marian … The Blarney Stone certainly pulls in the tourists. It’s a lovely community when we were there in 1989. I bought a few sweaters while we were there.

      When we lived in Syracuse, the city had many nationalities living as a community in certain sections. For the Irish, it was Tipperary Hill on the west side. It even had a traffic light with green being the top light. It is a point of pride and well known beyond the city.

      Here’s another Irish blessing: May your home always be too small to hold all your friends. Blessings. 😉

  8. Green mashed potatoes…I love it, Judy! During my college years, we would go to an Irish pub on St. Patrick’s Day and have green beer. I remember it turned my tongue green. 🙂
    Kissing the Blarney Stone…you wouldn’t catch this germophobe doing any kissing, unless there’s a tissue between my lips and the stone. 🙂

    1. I don’t think I ever had green beer, Jill. But I do love Irish coffee. 😉

      What was I thinking? You’re right. I should have had some hand/lip sanitizer or something to ward off any germs. 😉

  9. Judy I come from a very conflicting backgrounds my dad being from Irish decent and my mum Danish. My dad was the big kid always and mum learned how to crack a joke after many years with him. I was told my freckles would fade if I stayed out of the sun…..that was pretty true, thankfully because as a child I use to be called freckle face from a large Irish family with lots of boys living up the road. it scarred me for life and I hated those freckles.

    1. Kath … I wasn’t much of a sun worshiper, so I can’t blame the freckles on that. But my Grammy, who is part Irish, had auburn hair. So I suspect the freckles are linked to my Mom’s side of the family. 😉

  10. Judy, you have a rich heritage: the green, wearing of the orange, the black arm band…and best of all, rubbing dew on your freckles to make them disappear! I enjoyed this post very much.
    I didn’t fall for the “dew on the freckles” but did fall for a Blarney Stone gag. An Irish neighbor’s relative was visiting and at the family dinner chose me to earn a wish. He unwrapped a piece of faded green velvet (with great mystery and ceremony) and whispered to me, “Kiss the stone and make your fondest wish come true.” I was eight, and I solemnly, trustingly kissed the stone. Everyone laughed and laughed, and I was dubbed the Irish Fool. UNTIL the older brother of my friend stepped up and announced that I’d wished a pox on all of them.
    I never got any of the joke, but I had a girlish crush on my friend’s older brother for awhile.

    1. At times, Marilyn, it was confusing which side to root for and sad to know that there was such divisiveness among these wonderful people.

      How sweet that your friend’s older brother came to your rescue. I would have done the same – kissed the stone and made a wish. When we visited Ireland in 1989, Blarney Castle and the Blarney Stone were on our short list of places to see. I’m so glad we did. 😉

  11. No green mashed potatoes in my family, but lots of food traditions! I think the only one from my growing up years though is our cranberry sauce squirrel on Thanksgiving.

    I hope you enjoy your parade!

      1. OK, I am a vegematic. I saw this post in November even commented on it. I love the squirrel shape. We use the cranberry sauce straight from the Ocean Spray can – with the rings on it. 😉

  12. i love these traditions, and i’m half irish too, judy – i always celebrated the holiday with my kids, and now grandies and my class as well. we turn everything green, leave a mess where the leprechauns have been and enjoy lucky charms for breakfast!

    1. St. Patrick’s Day is a real fun day. What’s not to love. Food coloring. Shamrocks. Leprechauns. I especially love your idea about the Lucky Charms.

      Beth … Here’s an Irish blessing I hope you’ll enjoy: “May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night and the road downhill all the way to your door.” (All of the Irish blessings on my post are on a place mat from Meg O’Malley’s in Melbourne, Florida. That’s where we plan to go today to have our Irish celebration a week early.) 😉

  13. I too have kissed the Blarney stone , my grandmother was Irish and my parents were married on St Patrick’s day . I have Welsh on my father’s side so I consider myself a fully pledged celt . I can eat potatoes till they come out of my ears , if fact , I always said if ever I was on a desert Island all I want is a ‘spud ‘ UK for potato . I also grew up in the Black Country town of Halesowen
    that is nick named ‘Potato Bally ( meaning belly ) Land .
    So I shall be celebrating ‘St Patrick’s’ with a glass of the black stuff …cheers Judy .

    1. Growing up, no meal was a meal unless there was potatoes with it. (Unless, of course it was spaghetti and meatball night.) 😉

      Cheers to you, Cherry. Irish pride. My husband and I will celebrate St. Patrick’s day today in an Irish pub/restaurant. No doubt, he’ll have the corned beef and cabbage. I’ll probably have shepherd’s pie. (On St. Patrick’s Day, we’ll have the meal pictured above.) 😉

  14. That must have been quite complicated having parents with connections from the north and the south of Ireland! My Dad was from the south of Ireland and Mum from Norfolk England (where I live now) so for many years I was completely unaware of the north south divide in Ireland or even Ireland. I remembered recently a time when I didn’t even know my Dad was Irish because he had largely lost his Irish accent. At age 5 or 6 I asked my Mum one day “Why does he say it like that?” Meaning why does my Dad pronounce certain words differently to everyone else. When she explained it was because he was from Ireland – I had no idea what she meant. What was Ireland?!!! 😀

    I love your story about the early morning dew Judy! And do you mean to say your freckles didn’t leave? I do recall reading that in a fairy tale book, I didn’t know it was an Irish superstition for a cure for freckles! We don’t seem to have freckles in our family. My Dad must have come from those who don’t have freckles in Ireland. I would love to wash my face in morning dew everyday, but at a nice comfortable temperature coming from my boiler – pure water – better than Evian any day! 😉

    And we ‘did’ have corned beef and cabbage – sometimes. My Dad didn’t really like it that much – I guess he was sick of it from his childhood. Although ham and cabbage does sound much more appealing. Corned beef and cabbage is very nice – occasionally, but can be a little windy! 😉

    1. We used to kid my Mom about having an accent. Like singer Fats Domino, she’d say ‘heel’ for ‘hill,’ ‘steel’ for ‘still’ and ‘burry’ for ‘berry.’ He sang a song about blueberry hill and we’d over-accentuate his pronounciation every time just to razz Mom.

      About the freckles, I probably was acting out of curiousity as I have only a sprinkling of them. No, the dew story was probably an old wive’s tale. It didn’t do anything except leave my face with a cool, soggy feeling. 😉 My Grammy, my Mom’s Mom’s, had auburn hair and I’ll bet she had freckles. We also have strawberry blondes in our family.

      ‘Windy’ – I like that. That’s probably from the cabbage. I’m guessing. 😉

  15. St. Patricks day sounds fun. I would need several posts to list the superstitions I grew up with Judy! 🙂 I think I did touch upon them briefly in one a while ago.

  16. I never liked leprechauns spying on me and reporting my misdeeds to St. Patrick, ’cause that meant he might not leave any presents under the shamrock tree… : )

    Mom south, Dad north– “one of many contradictions in my DNA.” Ha! Good ‘un, O’Quipster!

    Great reminiscence, Judy. Loved the photos, and got a kick out of the Jameson flask. I had some “Irish coffee” made with Jameson’s after a meal at a restaurant once. One sip, and my head was spinning. Our waitress must have seen it happen before, because she materialized at my elbow with a coffeepot, and said with a smile: “Can I add a little coffee? That stuff is pretty strong.” Ha!

    Sure’n a fine post– o’thanks! : )

    1. Thank you Mark O’Armstrong for your quips and keen observations.

      Yes, Jameson’s is mighty strong. We mixed a shot with a full glass of Arnold Palmer’s Lite sweet tea and lemonade. That made the whiskey almost tolerable. 😉

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