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Irish luncheon kicks off celebration in New Ulm

NEW ULM — Irish and Germans alike had an early taste of St. Patrick’s Day Saturday, March 11, during the Irish Tea and Luncheon.

Guests were served salad, potato and leek soup and chocolate cake with Bailey’s Buttercream frosting. After the meal, guests were treated to Irish folk songs, lore and jokes.

“All people are welcome at our luncheon because everybody is Irish on st. Patrick’s Day,” guest Mary O’Connor said.

The luncheon started with Kent Menzel reciting an Irish prayer and singing “When Irish Eyes are Smiling,” by Chauncey Olcott.

The celebration continued with passages from famous, Irish poets and authors William Butler Yeats and James Joyce.

Tom Kaehler encouraged the crowd to sing along to the chorus of the traditional folk song “Whiskey in the Jar.”

Kaehler explained that the chorus was actually in Gaelic and translated roughly to the whiskey got me and the devil made me do it.

The merriment continued with a tale of St. Patrick, read by Anita Prestidge, and jokes from Kaehler, Menzel and Prestidge’s sons Aidan and Edwin Hendrickson.

Irish symbology was explored briefly. Kaehler and Menzel spoke on how St. Patrick was neither Irish, nor actually named Patrick.

The man was British, captured and enslaved by Irish raiders. He escaped back to England then became a priest and returned to Ireland, Kaehler said.

He also often used blue, not green, as a signature color. Green became associated with St. Patrick after the shamrock was used as a nationalist symbol in Irish efforts for independence, Kaehler said.

The luncheon began over 50 years ago, O’Connor said. It was likely the first celebration of Irish heritage in New Ulm.

“Once upon a time, the Irish ladies in New Ulm used to have a party on St. Patrick’s Day, there were maybe 15 of them,” O’Connor said.

As it grew, the luncheon moved to the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day to help attendance and to make way for the parade.

“The Irish are very caring, loving, sympathetic people, unless you get them riled up,” guest Marge Hames said.

“And they have a great sense of humor,” O’Connor added.

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