Irish for a Day
Every year, people from all walks of life and nationality drop everything, put on a shiny green paper hat and get soused on green beer in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.
My understanding is that St. Patrick—the patron saint of Ireland—led all of the snakes out of the country back in the Roaring 20s, possibly with the aid of Al Capone and his henchmen, all armed with Thompson submachine guns. It sounds suspiciously similar to the fable of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, leading the rats out of the German hamlet; only the Irish were obviously smart enough not to renege on their deal and paid St. Patrick his fee, sparing the children from the same fate as those formerly of Hamelin.
Is there a Pied Piper Day they celebrate in Germany? I suppose not. I mean, ridding a town of rats during the Plague is no small favor; but I’m sure most Germans are still peeved about the piper mesmerizing all the children into following him, too.
The reason why St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in the United States is clear: back in the 1800s, especially during the Potato Famine and Europe’s “Little Ice Age,” Irish immigration to America reached a peak. Particularly on the East Coast, you couldn’t step on a toe that wasn’t part of an Irishman’s foot. The influence of Irish culture spread along with the people all over the country.
However, many Europeans with specific cultural habits spread across this country, yet few of their traditions gained the popularity of St. Patrick’s Day here in America. Why do you think that is?
Because St. Patrick’s Day gives everyone an excuse to get drunk.
After all, if you’re “being Irish” for a day, you can’t do that sober… right?
Being neither Catholic nor Irish—and not being a heavy drinker since my early 20s—I hadn’t celebrated St. Patrick’s Day along with my eager-to-be-inebriated friends for decades… until I got married, that is. This is not to suggest that my wife is Irish (many of you already know that she is a Filipina) or even Catholic (and as a Filipina, that’s a given). However, the holiday happens to fall on her birthday, and for me that is an excellent reason to celebrate… though I don’t do so like most of my friends.
The last thing she wants is to have to hold my head as I vomit into the toilet on her birthday. So we generally spend St. Patrick’s Day going out to a nice dinner, with friends, of course, who help me shower her with gifts and praise.
It’s nice to have a reason to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day without having to resort to drunkenness. It’s also very handy that I couldn’t possibly forget my wife’s birthday.
But the question remains: Is alcohol a necessary aspect of St. Patrick’s Day? After all, it is something of a Catholic holiday, celebrating a miracle presented by a saint. Getting uproariously drunk on a Catholic holiday hardly seems appropriate. Yet it is also a distinctively Irish holiday. Who cares if St. Patrick himself was Irish; he was in Ireland, damn it, and that’s close enough. And when we think of the Irish, what comes to mind?
Any Irishers reading this might find that last paragraph offensive and might want to punch my lights out… after a pint or two. But for any who feel that way, keep in mind that we Americans have stereotypes for virtually everyone, and then remember that Ireland has an estimated one pub for every 300 people (as where in the United States the statistic is closer to 1.52 bars for every 10,000 people).
So is getting drunk the appropriate way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Here’s my opinion: if you are a devout Catholic, maybe it’s best to spend the day in quiet—and sober—reflection. If you are Irish, go ahead and blow away as many brain cells as you want. If you are neither Irish nor Catholic… Why are you celebrating this day at all?
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