MARION CENTER — Thistle & Pine Celtic & Country Collectibles celebrates all things Celtic, but come St. Patrick's Day, the focus is on the Irish. And that draws people to the store from far and wide, according to owner Teresa Perry.
"Once people know we're here, they come down and maybe embrace their heritage," she said about the five-year-old store located along Route 119, about a mile south of the Home Made Restaurant.
Perry said her family is of Scottish-Welsh descent, traced to the 1600s, and her father played the bagpipes, "so I had the whole influence growing up."
She said growing up, she enjoyed learning about her Celtic heritage, but that escaped her a bit as she grew older. After she and her husband, Terry, married, they would do things with her parents, such as attending the Ligonier Highland Games, which rekindled her interest in her heritage.
St. Patrick's Day honors the patron saint and national apostle credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland in the late fourth century.
He used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity — the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit — to the pagans. He also used Celtic knots to explain Christianity through symbols, Perry said.
Perry said the holiday is much more commercialized in America, with Irish food, dance and of course, beer.
"It's an American tradition. They do celebrate it there (in Ireland), but not with the commercialism. It's more of a religious holiday in Ireland," she said, a day of spiritual renewal and prayers for missionaries worldwide.
Perry said she first came up with the idea of the store while working on an associate's degree in business management from Butler Community College. A course on entrepreneurialism for students and non-students included a feasibility study and a plan for a new business.
Then Perry's wheels started turning. She said she liked the idea of a store with country crafts, decor and motifs, but also liked the idea of Celtic-themed items.
The term Celtic refers to the languages of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany, Cornwall or Manx.
When she opened Thistle & Pine, Perry said she didn't want to offer "dollar store," commercial items associated with events such as St. Patrick's Day and Celtic traditions. She does carry items such as hats and beads, but also authentic Irish items like teas, flags, glass and table ware, Celtic crosses and more.
There are other items such as tartans, which bear designs or colors to create the plaid representing a county, if one is Irish, or county, if Scottish, of one's heritage.
Because the Irish and Scots traveled back and forth along the isles, they brought back traditions of each other. Thus, while tartans and kilts are mainly Scottish traditions, they are also associated with the Irish.
For St. Patrick's Day, there is a St. Patrick's — or Tara — tartan.
"If you don't know what (county) you are (from), you could wear this and be fine," Perry said.
Other Celtic items include kilts, candles, collectibles and ribbons for handfasting, a ritual — usually pertaining to marriage — in which a person or persons ties a ribbon or ribbons around the wrists of the marrying couple.
A tartan or a piece of a tartan may also be used in handfasting, as well as a sash. The number of ribbons could range from one to three or as many as seven, Perry said.
Handfasting can entail only a few or many ribbons, with each color of ribbons offering a specific meaning, such as purity; loyalty; kindness; truth; devotion; health; fertility; balance; and pure love, among others.
She said she has had visitors from Indiana, Punxsy, Brookville, DuBois and Altoona, but also from as far away as Ohio, New York and West Virginia.
"This is the only place fairly close for people," Perry said.
People are drawn to the store because of new or long-time interest in Celtic culture. They may have seen an event such as the Highland Games and became curious about their own heritage, or have been celebrating their heritage for years.
"They love to talk about their families," Perry said. Others may seek Irish music with a specific instrument or vocal.
Last year, Thistle & Pine hosted its first-ever Celtic Festival, which drew more than 700 people to see bands, vendors and other highlights, and will be held again this year Oct. 1. The store also offers bagpipe and Celtic fiddle lessons with Terry Greene.
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Thistle & Pine will host a St. Patrick’s Day Celebration Friday at the Rayne Drop Inn, Marion Center.
From 7 to 9 p.m., there will be a free “Open Mic Irish Night” for anyone to showcase their talents on fiddle, bagpipes, bodhran drum, flute, accordion or banjo.
There will also be a “Best Legs in a Kilt” contest and a “Best Irish Dressed” contest, plus Irish Trivia and Pub games. At 10 p.m., the Celtic Creek Band will perform, followed by the drawing for the Ireland trip.
Also, a winner of the “Home to Ireland” trip to Ireland will be drawn. One need not be present to qualify for the prize. The deadline to sign up is 5 p.m. today.
For more information, go to www.thistleandpine.com  or call 724-397-2442.