The O'Toole family standing by a fence with Bridget's cousin, who was Queen of the Southside irish Parade a few years ago
The O'Toole family at the Southside Irish Parade a few years ago when Bridget's cousin was the Queen of the parade. Image credit: Rose O'Toole

Editor’s Note: Tori Trevino is the Editor-in-Chief for 42Fifty and was interviewed for this article, but she was not involved in the writing, reporting, or editing of this story.

St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday that gives people in countries that celebrate it a chance to appreciate Irish heritage and partake in Irish traditions. Bridget O’Toole, an Oswego High School senior, goes about celebrating in a unique way.

“I didn’t know the history behind it or anything,” senior Tori Trevino, O’Toole’s friend, states. “After Bridget introduced me to her…traditions—that’s what got me excited about [St. Patrick’s Day] and want to know more about it.”

For the past roughly three years, she has sent out a Google Form to her friends, asking if they love specific Irish things, like Irish people, potatoes, and parades. 

“I always end the Google Form with ‘why do you think you deserve soda bread,’ and that’s my favorite part,” O’Toole says.

Responding to these questions on the Google Form causes O’Toole’s friends to feel excitement for St. Patrick’s Day and look forward to the holiday’s arrival. 

“I put a lot of effort into this form,” Trevino says. “My main reasoning was ‘I’m a first-timer; this is me introducing myself to the culture and getting to know about it.’” 

This may be a way for her friends to be involved in St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, but she also uses the Google Form as a way to create memories with her family. 

“I’ll read [the results] to my family at dinner and we vote who gets a soda bread, and I love my friends’ enthusiasm every year,” O’Toole says. 

Part of the fun of St. Patrick’s Day for O’Toole and her family is going through and determining exactly who will get soda bread.

“There is definitely an elimination process because it’s hard to make a ton [of soda bread] at a time,” Patrick O’Toole, Bridget O’Toole’s brother, states.

The O’Tooles bake each Irish soda bread individually and leave a note that reads “Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Love, The O’Tooles.” Image credit: Rose O’Toole

A lot of people celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by wearing green or eating festively-decorated treats, but O’Toole and her family embrace their Irish heritage with a tradition starting generations ago. 

“My dad’s mom used to make soda bread for all of her neighbors,” O’Toole says. “She would make it the night before, and my dad and his sisters would pass it out. Then when my mom married my dad, she started that tradition. Every [night before] St. Patrick’s Day we make soda bread together and we give it to our favorite neighbors and teachers…we [have done] that for pretty much as long as I can remember.”

Soda bread is a valuable item to the O’Toole family because it gives them an opportunity to be excited about their culture and explain Irish heritage to others. In addition to baking and giving out soda bread, O’Toole and her family have other traditions that add to the festivities of their St. Patrick’s Day.

“[We have] lots of Irish music; as soon as we wake up, my dad’s usually blaring it,” O’Toole says. “[We wear] Irish sweaters, we usually go to the [Southside] parade the week before, and [there’s] lots of soda bread.”

Bridget has yet to find someone she knows as excited about St. Patrick’s Day as she and her family are.  Despite this, there is no lack of enthusiasm about St. Patrick’s Day, in her opinion. 

“I like that on St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish all of the sudden, and I think it’s a fun tradition for everyone…especially for Irish people,” O’Toole says.

For Irish families, St. Patrick’s Day provides a memorable time for them to come together and celebrate their heritage.

“I like seeing my family and I like seeing their enthusiasm about being Irish,” Bridget says. “It’s a cool thing; [hearing] stories about when our family came over from Ireland. My Grandma has a lot of stories about that.”

St. Patrick’s Day gives Bridget and her family, along with many other people of Irish descent, a day to appreciate their heritage and share that with others that may not be familiar with it. For additional information on St. Patrick’s Day, this article provides the origin and history of this holiday. 

“I think everyone should find something they’re passionate about, and it just happens that I’m passionate about St. Patrick’s Day,” O’Toole says. 

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My name is Miranda Mahoney, and I am the Managing Editor and Features Co-Editor for 42Fifty. I am a junior here at Oswego High School, and this is my second year on the 42Fifty team. Additionally, I am involved in the BIONIC club, Junior Class Council, the Science National Honor Society, and the Quill and Scroll Honor Society for journalism. In the spring, I play soccer for the OHS Girls Soccer team. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, and playing piano in my free time. I am excited to see what this year brings!

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