Previously published in The Wave
“Everyone’s Irish on Rockaway St. Paddy’s Day,” says everyone, or at least those of us that aren’t actually Irish. But that’s okay — St. Patrick himself wasn’t even Irish. He was born in Scotland and his parents were Roman. So who knows — maybe St. Patrick’s Day should really be thought of as an Italian holiday (yikes!). At any rate, I can at least use this as a justification for this Mediterranean girl’s enthusiasm for Rockaway St. Patrick’s Day, which has become a highly-anticipated ritual for me over the past 13 years.
Here’s how it goes: the days’ celebration begin at 11am. Our crew assembles at the Honan’s house, where Fran has a breakfast feast waiting for us. The menu includes green bagels, corn beef, chicken cutlets, Irish soda bread, homemade biscotti, shamrock shakes, green mimosas, Irish coffee and most anticipated… Fran’s famous brownies*. We eat, drink and chat about the parade.
Around 12:45 everyone assembles on the porch for the group photo — a 19 year Honan Family tradition. Some years, I was asked to hold the “Irish need not apply sign” but of late, Frank, Fran’s son-in-law has taken over the honors.
After the photo, everyone grabs a roadie (or three) and we head up the block to the parade. I love all the fan fair – the bagpipers, the people selling Irish gewgaw from stolen shopping carts, Mrs. Colombia, the dogs dressed up in green tutu’s, the drunkards, and my favorite, the NYC Sanitation Dept. clean-up brigade.
Besides all the usual hoopla, you never know what will happen on parade day. I remember two years ago when the Mayor showed up 30 minutes late. When he finally appeared, all of Rockaway started heckling him. I almost felt bad for the guy.
After the parade, the next stop is my mother-in-law’s house, conveniently just a few blocks away from the Honan’s house. Family, friends, neighbors and random people we don’t even know trickle in. Within an hour, 50 plus guests fill the house. Maureen always serves the most delectable Irish fare and the eating and drinking continues.
I think it’s fair to say the highlight of the afternoon is when the Manhattan College Pipe Band rolls in. My friend Carmel Geoghegan starts the party with her Irish step dance and everyone begins stomping their feet and passing around the Jameson!
After the sunsets there’s talk of heading to the bars. From 11am to the earlier morning hours, the peninsula celebrates their Irish heritage proudly. And I’m happy to be a part of it.
*Fran’s Famous Brownies recipe: http://theglorifiedtomato.com/