I’m making two posts today. I’ve already posted my reflections on Saint Patrick the man. In this post I’m writing about the holiday in which St. Patrick’s feast day is celebrated. St. Patrick’s day is a festive day that is a break from Lent and a harbinger of Spring. It’s a way that Irishness is celebrated worldwide, albeit the festive nature was a creation of the diaspora. Until recently, St. Patrick’s day in Ireland was a solemn day of prayer in tribute to the man who helped bring Christianity to Ireland to stay.
If you asked me when I was a child what my favorite days of the year are, I would have told you Thanksgiving and St. Patrick’s Day. For me, St. Patrick’s Day was all about celebrating my family’s Irish heritage, usually attending the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on 5th Avenue in New York. The weather was often miserable (and sometimes oddly localized) but it was fun to see the marching police, nurses, firefighters, and pipe bands. Even on days when I had to go school it felt special. No one else’s ethnicity had a special day where everyone dressed up regardless of heritage. I often donned an Irish sweater for the day, deliberately shunning green. Green was for all my Italian-American classmates, I had nothing to prove.
Growing up and moving to Virginia, the bloom started to fall of my St. Patrick’s Day shamrock. The Irish-American stereotypes and superficiality of the day started to get under my skin. Not to mention that someone started that whole pinching people who don’t wear green thing (ouch!). My joyous day had become just an excuse to get drunk. I thought it would be better when I moved to Boston, the most Irish city in America, but it was more of the same. 364 days a year you can find an Irish pub with traditional music and enjoy a nice pint with your friends. On St. Patrick’s Day the cover is $25, the beer is green (sacrilege) and the traditional Irish music is replaced with a crappy band and pub packed full of drunks. No thanks.
But there is a parade in Boston, the site of the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade in America. I attended the parade in South Boston the first two years I’ve lived here. I was impressed by the intimate, neighborhood feel of the parade. As a opposed to the grandiose, almost martial statement of New York’s parade to the world, the South Boston parade has more of a homespun feel. Folks sit on their steps of their homes and seem to know each parade participant personally. On the downside attending this parade makes me feel like a total outsider, as if I was crashing someone else’s family. The parades in both Boston and New York have also been embroiled on controversy by excluding Irish-American gays & lesbians and anti-war veterans which leaves me on the opposite side politically as well. I guess I can glean a little bit of hope of the barriers of prejudice breaking down by the fact that the New York parade has selected a Bostonian for Grand Marshall.
So in recent years I’ve been trying different ways of regaining my youthful exuberance for St. Patrick’s Day whether it be seeing an Irish band live or spending a quiet night with friends. In 2002 I spent St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin. Late to the parade party, the Irish capital have made up for lost time with a creative, artistic parade and a week-long festival throughout the city. This year I hope to attend the parade in Holyoke, MA which claims to be the second largest in the world after New York. Whatever I do, St. Patrick’s Day is still a very special day. And I probably won’t wear green.
Get your St. Patrick’s Day resources here:
- Fast Facts about Irish American’s and St. Patrick’s Day from ResourceShelf.
- Irish Abroad provides a compendium of facts for St. Patrick’s Day.
- Six Things You Should Know About St. Patrick…and 12 completely unnecessary facts about the day celebrated in his honor according to Busted Halo’s Mike Hayes.
- Busted Halo also has this great article about St. Patrick’s Day from the perspective of a German-American (Note to Greg Ruehlmann, I am totally up for hosting a stein with you in honor of Saint Godehard, especially if he’ll help me with my gout).
- Rocco Palmo’s Whispers in the Loggia as always offers the ecclesiastic perspective on Paddymas in The Wearin O’ The..Red?
- Larry Kirwin of the band Black 47 offers this annual St. Patrick’s Day Message.
- Dan Welch writes that St. Patrick’s Day is a missed opportunity to rail against imperialism.
- MassMoments provides the history of Evacuation Day in Boston.
- Finally, I know I said I can’t stand the stereotypes and superficiality, but this classic commercial makes me bust a gut laughing:
That’ll keep me from being a sourpuss this St. Patrick’s Day.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all! Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig! Sláinte agus Saol Agaibh!