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A toast to St. Cyril and a wee bit of blarney

In a misguided effort to stump my sister in-law, elderly Mr. Callahan stopped her at the door of their Manhattan apartment building on March 18 several years ago.

“Guess what today is?” he asked.

Having just received the annual reminder phone call from her fun-loving father, Nancy didn’t hesitate.

“St. Cyril day,” she said, “Of course.”

Stuck as it is between the famous St. Patrick’s Day and the revered St. Joseph’s, St. Cyril’s day gets the short shift in the United States (and almost every other country on earth.)

Marketed by a Croatian leprechaun named Grandpa Vince, though, the holiday became an annual tradition in my husband’s family.

They roasted lamb and sang traditional songs around the family spinet, toasted with elderberry wine in crystal flutes, and carved tiny figurines out of dark chocolate bon bons. Each year the family’s youngest child recited the story of Cyril and Methodius.

Actually, they didn’t do any of that.

Grandpa Vince’s devotion to St. Cyril grew purely from a desire to tease his beloved, the proudly Irish Grandma Mary Jane, daughter of the former Bridget Kennedy. Outnumbered in his own family, with a half-Irish wife and nine quarter-Irish children, Grandpa Vince summoned the spirit of St. Cyril to neutralize the spell of St. Paddy (and the smell of corned beef and cabbage.)

“Pfft, St. Patrick’s Day,” he’d say. “Just wait ’til tomorrow. St. Cyril’s Day, now that’s a holiday worth celebrating.”

And every year thereafter, when his wife called her children to wish them a Happy St. Patrick’s Day, he’d jump on the line to remind them of Cyril, the Slovak saint.

So, in honor of a proud jester and seasonally devoted follower of a somewhat anonymous saint, we bid you a happy St. Cyril Day.

Here are Molly and her Grandpa Vince on New Year's Eve, 2000, a perfect start to the new millenium..

Here are Molly and her Grandpa Vince on New Year’s Eve, 2000, a perfect start to the new millennium.

We celebrated St. Patrick's Day 2007 (or St. Cyril Eve) with some of our favorite people.

We celebrated St. Patrick’s Day 2007 (or St. Cyril Eve) with some of our favorite people.

Three generations of Vincents, three generations of goofy practical jokers. In honor of Grandpa Vince, Happy St. Cyril's/

Three generations of Vincents, three generations of goofy practical jokers. In honor of Grandpa Vince, Happy St. Cyril’s!

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Posted on March 18, 2013, in Family, Family Stories and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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