Monday, March 17, 2014

Was St. Patrick Italian?

Today is my birthday. I say this not to elicit well-wishes, though I always enjoy receiving them.  I am--more or less-- giving myself the day off from writing this blog.  I am posting here a slightly edited version of a blog I posted elsewhere a few years ago.  Forgive me, but I plead my natal celebration AND the fact that I am in the midst of preparing to leave on Wednesday for Left Coast Crime.

Followers of this blog know that Annamaria Alfieri is my pen name, one I gave myself.  My parents' choice was quite different.  Being of Italian descent, I was on track, as baby girls of my persuasion usually were, to be named after one of my grandmothers.  So I would likely have been called Sabina Maria or maybe Concetta after my maternal and paternal grandmoms. But when I debuted on March 17th, my parents chose Patricia for me.

Having Saint Paddy’s Day as a birthday has a lot of advantages. For one, people don’t forget. When shamrocks show up on supermarket windows and on mirrors behind bars in drinking holes, my friends and family all know my birthday is coming. Also, my day has a color. Green has been my favorite all my life. Luckily it suits me. And these days calling any product or process green is a huge compliment. Best of all, everyone celebrates. What other birthday but the 4th of July comes with a parade? When I was four years old, my uncle told me the march on Fifth Avenue was in my honor.  Today, midtown New York will fill up with revelers, giving my natal day a special jubilatory flair. 

The only drawback for me has been that some Irish people have considered it a travesty that a Sicilian-Neapolitan-American should have chosen “their” day to be born. They think only people like my friend and fellow St. Patrick’s Day birthday holder Terrence O’Brien deserve to be born on March 17th. In the Catholic school cultural rivalries of my youth, I had to withstand a great deal of resentment—some of it not so benign. My brother Andy and my friend Danny Gubitosa leapt to my defense in a play-yard altercation one March 17th by claiming that St. Patrick was Italian—an assertion that only further enraged my detractors.

According to Wikipedia though, Danny and Andy were sort of right. Paddy was a Romano-Britain, and though the historical details of his life are sketchy, substantiated evidence reveals that as a 16 year old, he was abducted from Britain by Irish raiders and dragged off to Ireland to be a slave—not a very auspicious beginning for a relationship between Saint and faithful fated to endure for millennia. Patrick made it back home, and once ordained, he returned to Ireland as a missionary and prelate. The Irish still invoke him against snakes and witches.

Coat of Arms of Murcia

Why the following is true I leave you to ponder, but evidently St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated not only in Ireland and the Roman Catholic Archdioceses of New York and of Boston, but also in Nigeria, Montserrat, Loiza, a small town on the north coast of Puerto Rico, and Murcia, the capital of an Autonomous Community founded by Moors in the southeast of Spain.

Whatever your excuse for celebrating, I hope you will today.


Annamaria - Monday


  1. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, oh lovely Italian colleeni. See you in Monterey!



  3. It's not surprising that St. Patty's Day is celebrated in some surprising places because most people will take advantage of any excuse for a celebration. (Pah-taaaay!)

    Happy birthday to our very own St. Patty!

  4. I'm joining the birthday wishers! Have a wonderful day! Actually I already knew it was your birthday; a little bird told me. (No, it was Facebook not Twitter!)

  5. I have a button that says "St. Patrick was Italian" so it must be true. Happy Birthday, paesan'

  6. Thank you all for your lovely wishes. My family is making me a special dinner tonight, but so far today, I have been trying to find California-appropriate clothing after months sporting only my heaviest woolies!

  7. Happy Birthday, ~Annamaria-Patricia (which has a certain ring to it, you have to agree)

    I know far better than to wish any author Many Happy Returns ...


    1. Thank you, Zoe! You are too right about the "returns" part. It's one thing we can say about eBook sales. They don't boomerang!

  8. Til hamingju með afmælið (happy birthday)!


  9. Yrsa, Þakka þér. Hafa a dásamlegur tími í Afríku! LOVE to you both!