Monday, May 06, 2013

May Day, Dublin, May 6, 2013

Everyone has ancestors;
it is only a question
of going back far enough
to find a good one.
~Howard Kenneth Nixon

Hello to all of you from Dublin, Ireland where our extended vacation is nearing it's conclusion. We've had many wonderful experiences that have varied from the memorable to the forgettable to the serendipitous. In regards to the latter, we have been fortunate enough to have landed in two different cities in Europe during major holidays that we knew almost nothing about.

In both cases it felt like stepping into a big party by accident. We knew there was great meaning in the events going on around us, but we had no idea what that meaning was.

We woke up one morning in Barcelona, Spain to find out it was Sant Jordi (St. George) Day. It is similar to our Valentine's Day, but multiplied in popularity several times. Sant Jordi -- the one who slew the dragon --  is the patron saint of books and roses in Spain. How do you go from slaying a dragon to being a patron saint of books and roses, you say? I can't tell you, but stay with me here. Holidays and their histories don't always make sense (think the Easter bunny, colored eggs and Jesus' resurrection).  

On Sant Jordi Day men traditionally give women roses, and the women give men books. And they make a really big deal out of it. Imagine being in San Francisco during the World Series parade last fall and you get a feel for what the crowds were like in Barcelona on Sant Jordi Day. Book sellers, rose stands, and massive crowds of people were everywhere. It was quite an impressive sight.

The first picture shows Diane and Cindy on the morning of Sant Jordi Day in Barcelona, Spain, cavorting in front of the fabulous (and bizarre) Sagrada Familia Cathedral.

That was two weeks ago. Today we find ourselves in Dublin, Ireland. We were surprised to find out a few days ago that this is a Bank Holiday -- which on this Emerald Isle means a day of major importance. The first Monday in May is when they celebrate the Gaelic May Day festival, historically called Beltane. People are off work, schools and businesses are closed, families leave town for the long weekend -- and they celebrate the holiday in a big way.

When our Irish ancestors lived here, this day was when their cattle were driven to their summer pastures and people lit bon fires to celebrate the end of winter and the beginning of warmer weather. Today it is a national holiday for everyone to take a break from the busyness of life.

The second picture shows George and I enjoying the May Day Holiday weekend, rather naively of course, but willingly nonetheless.

Our vacation is drawing to its end in fine fashion. Our time in this land of our strong Irish roots is nearly over. We fly back to the states tomorrow, and will leave the sound of Irish brogues behind. But the wonderful memories will remain. And our sense of kinship with this land and its people is growing stronger than ever.
- - -
Steve Shepard

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