Monday, March 16, 2009

show your green

it's that time of year again, when everyone needs the very slightest of excuses to distract from the hum-drum routine of eagerly awaiting spring. catholics observing lent, school children staring longingly out of windows, desperate for a chance to play in warmer weather, and ordinary people who have reached what they thought to be their threshold for the dreariness of winter many times over. these, just to name a few, are people who embrace the celebration of saint patrick's day.

saint patrick's day is that day that i (as a non-christian) have always associated with binge drinking and ugly green foam top hats. sure i had heard the story about some snakes hundreds of years ago, but i neither entirely believed it nor questioned it. i can't be the only one. after all, it comes about just as the cabin fever of winter has nearly scrambled your brain into unrecognizable mush, so who really cares?

well, this year, i decided to actually read (i mean, google and browse two articles) about saint patrick, the man. what i learned was that saint patrick is seen as being a key figure in converting the native irish to christianity. he is credited with tactically blending pagan and christian symbols to ease the transition. one example being the 'celtic cross' in which he placed a sun, a powerful image for pagan irish, in the center of a christian cross.

so how did this day change from commemorating a momentous religious accomplishment to present day guinness-chugging and leprechaun loving? it's all about the timing. if patrick had died in december, he would not receive nearly as much tribute, at least here in america, while people are stretched between thanksgiving and christmas/hanukkah. but now in march, the celebration of patrick's life and mission, can be ever-indulgent.

the parades, honoring saint partrick for nearly 300 years, the wearing of green to show loyalty to the roman catholic church, and the eating and drinking of traditional irish fare, have become a spectacle for people of all races and religious backgrounds to join in and release pent-up energy. anyone can be 'irish for a day' right?

does the secretary in your office, wearing her green cardigan passing out green jellybeans, have a true connection to the man and his life's work? most likely not, but instead, wants to get up out of her cubicle for ten minutes to show her peers how much she 'cares' about the triumph of the church over false beliefs. greeting card companies have mass-produced trinkets in every price range to allow anyone to declare their heritage with a faux crystal shamrock pinned to their lapel. it would appear that commercialized holidays are big business here in the u.s.

now, i may sound hypocritical, seeing as i've had my share of drinks on many a march 17th, for no reason other than having some drinks. but i do wish that we could call it as it is. this day is not declared a national holiday here in america. banks and schools are still open. and so we should at least say what it means to us, a day to party and revel in excesses, rather than delve into our most pious behaviors.

perhaps we already do, and that would explain how i made it nearly 30 years without knowing exactly what saint patrick's day was all about. so c'mon now, pick your poison! will it be guinness or jameson's for you?

note: in no way would i attempt to discredit the millions of people of irish descent who have a right to celebrate such a major turning point in their history. i will, however, comment on how many americans, myself especially, perpetuate the very fact that this holiday seems to be stuck in a land of limbo.


Kristine said...

Brian said...

What I don't get is why can't the police in Manhattan just let everybody, no matter what your age or where you are in the city, just fucking drink??...without being lame and trying to hide it in a brown paper bag.