Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I'd just like to wish all my Irish readers a very happy St. Patrick's Day.

Thanks to A Tangled Web: Plastic Paddy Ignorance for a copy of the flag:

More information about the history of the day itself can be found at Wikipedia: Saint Patrick's Day.

There are some particularly interesting comments about the way the day is celebrated in some countries on the talk page:

As a native-born Irishman, a lot of the paddywhackery, especially American paddywhackery, associated with Saint Patrick's Day makes me want to puke. For one thing, no one in Ireland--except for certain entertainers, whose livelihood is gained by pandering to the expectations of green-clad Americans--would ever say "Saint Paddy's Day." It should be remembered that the first to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in America were Protestant "gentlemen," who dined at various good-quality inns; they wore the color blue, that color being then associated with the Feast.

The British government encouraged the celebration of Saint Patrick's Day as a "national day," because (at least, at the time) it had religious rather that political--i.e. rebel--connotations. Trooping the Colors at Dublin Castle was the annual contribution of the British authorities. It was essential to reinforce the ideology that even the "mere Irish" were happiest when serving their British overlords.

In New York, the parade was soon taken over by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, a right-wing, (some would say Fundamentalist), and certainly male chauvinist Catholic organization, who wanted to define for themselves what constituted "Irishness," an ethos very much removed from that of today's Irish population, as evidenced by the opposition to gays and lesbians. Seen from outside, their conception of "Irishness" is closer to that of the 19th century than to that of the Ireland of today.

But, in the United States, apart from the ridiculous practice of dressing up in green, the most odious aspect of St. Patrick's Day is the apparent license it gives to all to drink to excess. (The term "drowning the shamrock" comes from the tradition of the "Protestant gentlemen" putting their shamrock in the glass when the last toast was drunk.) When I was a child in Ireland, the day was celebrated primarily as a religious holiday, with obligatory attendance at Mass for Catholics. In those days, the public houses were shut on St. Patrick's Day. Even this year (2006), the off-licenses (liquor stores) were requested not to open until 4:00 pm, a request that was largely honored. The parade, during my childhood, was an industrial parade, intended to show Ireland's merits as a base for industry--another idea from Taoiseach (prime minister) Seán Lemass, intended to improve Ireland's miserable economy.

However, in the United States, those who would be Irish consider the day as a "National Let's-All Get-As-Drunk-As-We-Can Day." Greeting cards, including ecards on the Net, are laden with the stereotype of Irish drunks; no other ethnic group in the United States would condone this practice, which can often quickly lead to racial slur.--PeadarMaguidhir 11:13, 9 July 2006 (UTC)
An interesting perspective on how a day of tradition and veneration has been bastardised in the US to become an excuse for a piss-up.


Abby Green said...

I suppose the excess can be the case with too many holidays... sadly. (Christmas a commercailistic free for all, Thanksgiving an eating overkill, Valentine's Day means what?, 4th of July is the one that celebrates setting things on fire) Here in my little corner of the states, St. Patrick's Day is about Ireland, the music of Ireland, the language of Ireland, which all goes hand in hand with the history of Ireland. True, it has little to no religious conotation, but it is a celebration day in honor of a culture that we so truly love. I wish I had grown up there, but I didn't. Personally, I will have a Guiness. "A" meaning one. And so will most of my friends, but no one I know will be sloshing out of the bar at the end of the night. I know others will, but that's a holiday - not just this one... and that's the way of many American lives... excess to the max. SUV's, houses big enough for... well you get the idea.

GO! Smell the Flowers said...

Great post and hi from Dubai. Sadly, it seems that so many festivals are losing their true meaning in commercialism.

We have posted a link to your blog on our site - why not take a look?

GO! Smell the flowers said...

Thanks for your comment Tim...feel free to link to us ready for the April 23rd....we'd love to get a debate GO!ng on our respective sites....

All the best...

Kolla said...

Hi Tim,

Here's a different and respectful e-card for St Patrick's Day:

Great article.


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