Saint Patrick’s Day is a load of bollocks. The holiday as we know it is as traditionally Irish as pizza bites are traditionally Italian, and was brought to life not in Ireland, but right here in the United States. It could be a bunch of craic, but when you’ve got Scottish bagpipes belting-out Danny Boy (lyrics penned by an Englishman) while everyone skids around on a diet of boiled corned beef and green beer, it’s hard to take it all seriously. Because if anything is true of the Irish, we tend to do things with a little less flash, and as a culture fiercely protective of identities that have been fractured over the years, we are put off by misrepresentations of who we are. Plus, Patrick’s wee shindig went largely unnoticed in Ireland until relatively recently; my family was the anomaly that dusted-off the grill and cooked sausages in the rain to commemorate the occasion (don’t ask why). The only other people active on Paddy’s Day were old Catholic dears toddering off to the chapel to conduct some prayers … and that was about it, bar the odd pub party here and there. That is, until the early 1990s when some smart folks in business suits realized there was money to be had, so started importing the ferocity (if not the wholesale content) of Paddy Saint-Murcah Day to Ireland, and things have just gone buck mad ever since.
And now, a confession: Irish Millennials, myself included, have (almost) fully embraced the spirit of the Yankified version of Paddy’s Day (minus the corned beef, Notre Dame obsession and lads in kilts). Perhaps it’s because World Rugby has sneakily been scheduling the Ireland vs. England Six Nations game on Saint Patrick’s Day every other year. Or perhaps it’s because on an island of deep political division, March 17 is the one day when we can all come together and adopt a single identity that we can agree on. The fact that the thing that binds us together is a random fourth-century missionary who came from England really is neither here nor there. What’s important is cultural awareness and continuity, and that is a two-way street.
Just as the Irish adopted the spirit of the American Saint Patrick’s Day, anyone who wants to give their Hibernian levels a boost should listen to the Irish before they smoke that first shamrock. For example, corned beef was the food of the poor Irish immigrant, not the food of their homeland, and Guinness was invented in London, not Dublin (but I never told you that). We have many things to share about the soggy rock we all call home, and all of them are far more impressive than how hard you can drink and fight things. After all, Saint Patrick is the patron saint of the island known as the Land of Saints and Scholars, not Clowns and Loud Mouths; let’s keep it that way. Erin go bragh. Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit!