“So join me for a drink boys, We gonna make a big noise, So don’t worry ‘bout tomorrow, Take it today, Forget about the cheque we’ll get hell to pay”
-AC/DC, “Have a Drink on Me”
Before splashing some Bailey’s in your morning coffee, having that hearty Guinness at lunch, and ordering Jameson after Jameson this evening, let’s have a look at just why the public decides that St. Patrick’s Day merits intoxication and pinching people that are not fitting in with the trends.
Holiday celebrations raise the question of the meaning and history behind what makes the date so special before inebriation sets in and no one really cares anymore. March 17th, 461 is the day that Maewyn Succat passed away. He probably was named St. Patrick because no one could truly pronounce his name correctly. St. Patrick was actually a British man that was part of the Roman Empire; however, at the age of 16 he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and was a slave for six years (HISTORY, 2014).
After his captivity, St. Patrick converted to Christianity and became a missionary, making his way up the religious ladder of Ireland. Plenty of people do so, but after his death he was named the Patron Saint of Ireland (but I thought he was Roman-British or whatever?). This is when the mythology of his feats surfaced. St. Patrick was known for clearing all the snakes off the Emerald Isle and cleansing the nation of paganism, and also used a three-leaf shamrock to explain the trinity to Irishmen. The two problems with these claims are that there were never snakes in Ireland because the waters around the island are too frigid for the reptiles to migrate to, and shamrocks aren’t necessarily real; they’re either wood sorrel or white and yellow clovers (HISTORY, 2014).
So in short: a guy who wasn’t Irish or Catholic did a couple things that weren’t possible.
However, people care deeply about the holiday; it has cultural significance and rightfully so. The classic dish of corned beef and cabbage is consumed, fiddles and bagpipes fill the air with expressions of the one thing the Irish had left after the English conquered their people and forbade them to use their own language, the color green is worn in representation of their landscape and flag, and the “small-bodied fellows” known for their trickery and servitude are followed to the end of the rainbow (be careful though, they may be cranky).
The Irish are a very proud culture. They have endeared many hardships through the years that only a handful of other cultures can probably relate to, but don’t view them as evil leprechauns. This is the way we all should depict real Irishmen.
Oh, stereotypes. The truth is that all Irish people aren’t red-headed, short-tempered, poor alcoholics. Their traditions are rich, their folk music and art is enjoyed throughout the world, and their gift of gab has provided us with literary greats such as Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, William Butler Yeats, and Bram Stoker (Staton, 2012). Though their cleverness and wit is sometimes ignored after a bottle of whiskey and a pub brawl (I thought we weren’t being stereotypical?). I never said that.
Every year we tend to over-exaggerate the jokes and festivities in order to validate drunken and reckless behavior. It’s a holiday; what holiday does that not happen on? You aren’t allowed to say, “Earth Day,” or something like that because many people don’t even know about it (and that’s probably why we aren’t very environmentally-friendly). It’s April 22nd; Cheers to recycling.
St. Patrick’s Day is a wonderful holiday observing a wonderful culture. 34.5 million Irish-Americans reside in this country which is seven times more than the population of Ireland (Kliff, 2013). The St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York City alone has 200,000 participants and 3,000,000 million spectators (HISTORY). Chicago and Boston dye their rivers green, and the rest of America adds food-coloring to their beer. As a matter of fact, the celebrations really didn’t become so festive until hundreds of thousands Irish people migrated to America after the great potato famine of 1845. What a horrible event; I hope it never happens again. I hope you’re prepared, Idaho.
It’s a celebration for all so be careful out there, drink your green beer, eat your corned beef and cabbage, chase the leprechaun, but be respectful to the culture. You get to have fun because of their heritage. Remember now, there’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, just more whiskey, potatoes, and bare-knuckles, so watch yourself.
I will be hanging out with these guys tonight if anyone wants to join at Low Spirits…
Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!
History (2014). Retrieved from http://www.history.com/topics/st-patricks-day on March 14th, 2014
Kliff, S. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/03/17/the-irish-american-population-is-seven-times-larger-than-ireland/ on March 14th, 2014
Staton, J. (2012). Retrieved from http://voices.yahoo.com/top-10-irish-stereotypes-10911993.html?cat=16 on March 14th, 2014.