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NOT MY HOLIDAY? A FRESH PERSPECTIVE ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY
St. Patrick’s Day is going to feel a little different this year. In the past, I’ve shared stories of how my dad, brother, and I get together every year and celebrate our heritage. Even when it’s not March 17, I honor my Irish ancestry — my front door has a Celtic harp, and my bookshelf is crammed full of works like “The Treasury of Irish Folklore” and “How the Irish Saved Civilization.” There’s just one problem, though: As it turns out, we Lloyds aren’t nearly as Irish as we thought we were. You see, my mother’s a bit of an amateur genealogist. She takes a lot of joy in tracing her family history and has managed to do so as far back as the American Revolution. But when it came to my dad’s side of the family, she mostly turned up dead ends. She was able to follow their migration westward from Ellis Island, but nothing earlier than that. And that’s when she got my father a DNA testing kit. I couldn’t fathom the results — we’re almost exclusively British. There’s a little bit of the Irish in us, but not nearly to the extent we were raised thinking we were. After the revelation, I felt like Luke Skywalker finding out Darth Vader is his father. Here I was thinking we Lloyds were the underdog rebels when, in fact, we were part of the empire that was oppressing them! So am I tossing out the shamrocks and breaking out the fish and chips? Not so fast, “mate.” I may only have a sliver of Irish heritage in me, but that sliver is a heck of a
lot more fun to celebrate. Don’t believe me? Name one English whiskey.
Patrick’s Day celebrations, but I’m excited for him to start this next chapter in his life.
I’m mostly poking fun, but this incident has brought up some interesting questions on what it means to honor your ancestry. Here we were following these traditions we unwittingly adopted somewhere along the way. Maybe past Lloyds didn’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, but we do now and have done for several generations. Which is more important? I tend to err more on the side of recent traditions. For instance, I’m proud to say my son Nick is following the tradition of his far more recent forefathers in becoming an ensign in the United States Navy. He’ll be heading off to nuclear power school this month and won’t be around for the St.
So maybe, less than blood and DNA, it’s the stories we pass on from generation to generation that matter. Those are what help us build bonds with our kin and identities for ourselves. Sure, a greater percentage of my genetic makeup might be from the UK, but the stories and traditions of the small part of Ireland won out. At some point along the way, when my ancestors were faced with telling their children about being from an empire or from a rebellious nation yearning to be free, the story of freedom won out. I think that says something.
–Bra nnon Lloyd
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