Doing things differently since 1984
It was about three weeks ago that it dawned on me: “Oh crap…. St. Patrick’s Day is going to be on a Saturday this year.”
I say this not because I am anti-Irish or anti-St Patrick in any way – in fact, quite the opposite. Rather, I say this with the same kind of feeling of dread you would get if you checked you and your family in to a Panama City hotel….. only to then realize that MTV is hosting a Spring Break party there.
For those outside of this setting, St Patrick’s Day is that day where everyone pretends to be Irish for the sake of overpopulating all the bars and pubs (particularly the ones that also pretend to be Irish) and consuming copious amounts of Guinness and Jameson. Unless you’re in Ireland, of course, in which case there’s no need to pretend. This happens every year, but on a Saturday? God help us. There should be an advisory to stay off the roads and away from city centers after 8pm.
Now, I realize that St Patrick’s Day is by far not the only holiday around to have suffered this fate, but seriously – the day has nothing to do with Saint Patrick. Well OK, there is one thing – Saint Patrick lived in Ireland. That’s about it. And he purportedly died on March 17. I can almost guarantee that if he was invited to show up to a modern day St Patrick’s Day celebration he would be revolted and grieved.
Before I go off on to my little historical rant here, I do want to make sure I make one thing clear: I like St Patrick’s Day. I think some people take it too far, and I find the widespread ignorance about Irish culture to be a little bit nauseating, but I still like it.
Actually, there is one more thing I want to make clear: I am not claiming to be an expert. I am not Irish. I have visited Ireland (and loved it); I have studied Ireland (though not as a primary focus); I have lived near Ireland (in northern England); but I am not Irish. I’m not even Catholic. I would love to have feedback and added insight from those with greater expertise than me.
So anyway – Saint Patrick. Brief synopsis: Well-off kid, born in Scotland in the 4th century, kidnapped to Ireland for several years, managed to escape back to Britain, became a priest and then bishop, devoted the rest of his long life to being a missionary in Ireland, and ended up being quite successful in his quest to convert pagan Ireland to Christianity. All of that is pretty widely accepted fact.
The full story, of course, is much more interesting. If you read his account of his life, you’ll notice one thing right away: he talks about God a lot. This guy was, you know, a missionary. A priest. Someone who gave up whatever his other aspirations in life may have been in favor of returning to the hostile land of his captors to do what he solemnly believed was right. He prayed a lot. He didn’t go to any pubs. I highly doubt he dressed in green. He lived a monastic lifestyle. He wasn’t patriotic. He wasn’t a warrior.
St. Patrick arrived to an Ireland with few, if any, who claimed themselves to be Christians. By the time of his death, the majority of the island claimed themselves to be Christian. That was his legacy. To my knowledge, he accomplished this without violence or coercion. You could argue whether this change was a positive one or not, but even after his death, throughout the Dark Ages Ireland remained a hub of Christianity, producing some of Europe’s finest literature, art, and religious men and women. It was monks from Ireland who are granted much of the credit for the re-Christianizing of England. To this day, Christianity endures more in Ireland than in most of the rest of Europe.
So, compare the Saint Patrick with the holiday that’s supposedly in tribute to him. Not to condemn all St Patrick’s Day celebrations as terrible things, but there is a tragedy in that the real St Patrick is often ignored when, really, I think he’s a pretty interesting guy.
On a completely different topic, do any of you readers have any ideas as to what you would like to see me blog about? Or, would you like to have a guest post on my blog? Please feel free to comment with your ideas, or join my Facebook page and send me a private message. I’d love to hear from you!