December 8, 2016

Go home, St. Paddy’s Day, you’re drunk

Illustrated by Victoria Courtney

Illustrated by Victoria Courtney

I wouldn’t gain much personally if the world celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day differently, or not at all. But faraor! The way we observe this holiday is bizarre.

All traditions and holidays morph over the centuries, and this one would be completely beyond recognition to those who founded it.

Saint Patrick was a British missionary credited with converting the Celtic pagans of Ireland to Catholicism during the Fifth Century AD. The day of his death, March 17, was established as a feast day by the church before it spread and took on a more secular significance around the world.

The first thing that baffles me is the trajectory this holiday has taken from the somber halls of Catholic cathedrals to the drunken streets of Chicago. The reasons people will find for observing a holiday are fascinating—they can take the lifting of Lenten penance and translate it into a day almost solely dedicated to drinking.

The Catholic church discourages alcohol consumption during Lent, but this expectation has historically been lifted on March 17. Legends of Saint Patrick encouraging people of the faith to drink their fill in his memory have added to the holiday’s association with alcohol.

It’s kind of entertaining, really—over the years, vaguely Irish cultures have said, “I see your holy feasting day, and I raise you green beer raining in the streets.” We’ve taken a fuzzy concept and run with it, to the point where the austere Catholic holy men of the 17th Century are probably turning in their graves.

I can kind of get the secularization and anarchy of it all, but Saint Patrick’s Day as a celebration of Irish culture? What is that?

The way we observe St. Paddy’s paints a clear, homogeneous image of what Irish people are like, and while I’ve only had one Irish friend as reference, it seems a little offensive, don’t you think?

I mean, I know it’s not in the same ballpark as far as discrimination and mass murder goes, but it seems almost akin to celebrating something like Geronimo’s Tomahawk and Wampum Day.

I think if I were Irish, I’d be a little offended if people assumed I was an alcoholic, or asked where my pot of gold is and when I last got in a fight. Do people in Ireland even eat corned beef and cabbage? Certainly they care to drink things besides Guinness and whiskey.

We use images of indigenous American peoples as mascots and branding fodder, and we do the same with leprechauns and little green Irish men. Seems a holiday like this wouldn’t do much to discourage that.

How about this—I propose a holiday to glorify the United States. Not Independence Day or anything like that, but something where we celebrate over-eating and embrace our stupidity. Americans are loud and arrogant, after all, so there would be an obligation to eat really loudly or something. We’d shoot our guns and sing “Yankee Doodle” until the cows come home. Big cows—we like things big.

I don’t know, sounds like the kind of Fourth of July party I would avoid.

Now there’s a difference between enjoying the absurdities of “Irish” culture and embracing Saint Patrick’s Day because you’re “proud to be Irish.” I’m sorry, but I rarely hear people talk about being Irish any other time of the year, unless it’s in reference to their Catholic family or their inability to tan.

That’s probably what irks me most about St. Paddy’s: disingenuous Irish pride. If you truly identify with your Irish heritage, then I’d expect better than blarney-stone-level drunkardliness to show it. If you have Irish ancestors but don’t take it too seriously, it only makes sense to take the 364 days a year you don’t care and add a day to it.

And if you’re not Irish, well, you probably have as much to do with Ireland as red hair and freckles do. You might want to stay out of this.

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