Saturday, March 17, 2012

Heritage (Slice 17)

I celebrated a rich tradition this St. Patrick's Day, one that I've honored for several years.

I didn't wear green.
I didn't drink green beer or, in fact, anything of either category.
I didn't sing an Irish drinking song.
I didn't claim that there's a bit of Irish in my blood, somewhere on my father's side.

See, every St. Patrick's Day, I remember (again) that I do, in fact, have traceable heritage, and today, once again, I went and looked up when St. Joseph's Day is. I'm generally an American mutt (shorthair domestic, thank you), but I'm a quarter Czech on my mother's side, and St' Joseph's is a pretty big deal--their St. Patrick's Day, though "a little more tame" according the myczechrepublic site.

But this got me thinking about heritage, what we hang on to and what we forget. I mused to a friend today, "I want to travel back in time and chat with an Irish New Yorker in, say, 1872. And I want to tell him, 'Don't worry about all this insane persecution you're dealing with right now. In 140 years, New Yorkers will be claiming they're Irish up one side and down the other, and will be drinking watery green beer to prove it.'" but the persecution isn't the fun part of history to claim. Nobody wants that part.

Instead, we claim the parties and the festivals, like out cultural histories were a Spring Break photo album set to slideshow.

I'm no better. I don't speak Czech, the only history I know is what I remember from an 8th grade research paper, and I have to look up what day St. Joseph's is every year.

It's this Monday, by the way. And I bought the supplies (yes, Mom, even the poppyseed filling) for kolaches today. I'll bake them tomorrow, and by the time I walk into work with them on Monday morning, I'll swear it's my annual tradition.


  1. Very humorous, honest, and thought provoking

  2. Had to comment. Bravo for getting it in under the wire. And an interesting slice about traditions and heritage. Love the comment to your mother.

  3. I also thought the comment to your mom was fun! I would like to know more about my heritage, but everything is so disconnected now and our family traditions growing up were rooted in our eastern Oregon lifestyle, rather than Sweden or the other countries of my ancestors. I am glad that you have something to link to your Czech heritage.

  4. I like your analogy that most of us become "mutts" after a generation or two as Americans. I too am a mutt!

  5. I love this post. St. Patrick's Day is the perfect demonstration of the way we celebrate our immigrant heritage only when it's convenient and pretty and nice. I love that you are trying to tap into your own heritage by finding out about your own special holiday!

  6. It's funny that you should mention St. Joseph's Day. I was in our local Hallmark and noticed St. Joseph's Day cards and wondered what it was. I have many Irish friends and a couple who are disgusted by the image that St. Patrick's Day gives the Irish. I love your analogy to the short haired domestic mutt. I think that describes myself too, minus the Czech background. Well done.

  7. Your honesty is voiced beautifully in this text. Enjoy your Czech tradition. You sparked an idea for a post.
    MH at

  8. Thanks, all, for your comments and encouragement! I felt like I had extra purpose in my baking today, knowing I had an audience of sorts...!

  9. As I make my way through your slices, long after your kolaches have been baked and eaten, I'm intrigued by the claim that "persecution isn't the fun part of history to claim." Actually, it's sometimes not only fun, but profitable -- witness the "Notoriously Good" marketing of Sleeman (, which plays on the bootlegging history of the company to sell its excellent beers. I can think of one or two similar examples from church history, too.