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A Springtime Ceilidh

St. Patty's Day can be an odd time of year for we Irish Wiccans and Pagans. On the one hand, the attraction of all things Irish is strong. First there's that stirring fiddle music and the rumble of the drum. The food is mighty tasty, folks are feeling celebratory, and who doesn't like the color of bright, springy green? On the other, who wants to revere a man for driving the "snakes" out of Ireland, a.k.a. the Druids? There is still a spirited scholarly debate regarding how much damage St. Patrick actually did on his own versus the mythic qualities that surround him to this present day. This presents a quandary, but not one insurmountable. I believe that you can partake in festivities in your own way, honoring your Irish heritage. Perhaps this year is one of the most opportune times, when we have the Irish holiday falling within the same week as the Spring Equinox. If you do up a dinner party combining the two, with a focus on some of the more classic Celtic traditions– problem solved!

Take down your favorite celtic knotwork wall hanging and use it as a tablecloth. Hopefully it is nothing you mind cleaning a little spilled food or drink off of. Decorate the table with fresh cut spring flowers, such as daffodils. Invite about 4 to 6 others to join you and pull up a chair. For your menu, think Celtic-eclectic. This is your very own hybrid holiday, after-all.

Had it with tired old corned beef and cabbage? Give this tempting main course a try: 

DUBLIN CODDLE

Irish sausage, bacon, onion and potato hotpot

by French Tart from food.com

4 1/2 pounds potatoes

2 large onions, peeled and sliced thickly

1 pound good quality pork sausages

1 pound bacon, piece thick cut

2 cups water

1 ham stock cube or 1 beef or 1 chicken stock cube, if ham stock isn't available

3-4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

salt (to season)

coarse-ground pepper (to season)

Directions:

Peel the potatoes. Cut large ones into three or four pieces: leave smaller ones whole. Finely chop the parsley. Boil the water and in it dissolve the bouillon cube.

Grill or broil the sausages and bacon long enough to colour them. Be careful not to dry them out! Drain briefly on paper towels. When drained, chop the bacon into one-inch pieces. If you like, chop the sausages into large pieces as well. (Some people prefer to leave them whole.)

Preheat the oven to 300 F. In a large flameproof heavy pot with a tight lid, start layering the ingredients: onions, bacon, sausages or sausage pieces, potatoes. Season each layer liberally with fresh-ground pepper and the chopped fresh parsley. Continue until the ingredients are used up. Pour the bouillon mixture over the top. On the stove, bring the liquid to a boil. Immediately turn the heat down and cover the pot. (You may like to additionally put a layer of foil underneath the pot lid to help seal it.)

Put the covered pot in the oven and cook for at least three hours. (Four or five hours won't hurt it.) At the two-hour point, check the pot and add more water if necessary. There should be about an inch of liquid at the bottom of the pot at all times. Guinness, bottled or draft, goes extremely well with this dish (indeed, adding a little to the pot toward the end of the process wouldn't hurt anything). Another good accompaniment is fresh soda bread, used to mop up the gravy!

Some other nice touches would include tossing some regional pea shoots into a salad or soup. They look like little shamrocks and have a pleasant, earthy flavor. Serve up some warm Irish coffee for dessert with a cool mint sorbet for contrast.

Instigate some spirited discourse: Invite people to share unusual stories of distant travels, spooky occurrences, and odd serendipity. Keep the mood casual and lively. People should feel at home at a dinner party; not afraid to spill some ale on your best white linen napkins.

As far the tunes, there are so many great Irish punk and folk bands, you can take your pick. From Gaelic Storm to the Dropkick Murphys, play a nice  shuffle of whatever stirs your Celtic soul. Encourage your dinner guests to bring an instrument of choice for a possible impromptu jam session after. Break out the bodhran, the fiddle, and the bagpipes. Have the guys don kilts (always a treat for the ladies) if they're feeling bold, and have yourselves a real ceilidh. 

 

References:

"Green Plant" photo by Pong, from freedigitalphotos.net

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqRO1s8NcB8

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wildhunt/2012/03/saint-patrick-druids-snakes-and-popular-myths.html

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Colleen DuVall has written articles, plays, short films, and a novel. Most recently, her work was featured in Crone Magazine and the Marquette Journal online. She resides with a black cat named Bootsie, who always wants to keep her company at her computer.

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