In recent years, March 17 has been celebrated as St. Patrick’s Day. The holiday isn’t new but for many years, the celebration was localized in Ireland, some parts of Canada and Monseratt (the only former Irish colony in the Caribbean). The young man who became known as Saint Patrick was born in England as a rich man’s son, kidnapped by Gaelic rebels and who found God during his enslavement. When God rescued him, he returned home, became a priest, and eventually returned to Ireland as a missionary, evangelizing his former captors. Some of the story might be true but some of it has morphed into local folklore, hard to say which is which. It is said that he used the green shamrock leaf to illustrate the Holy Trinity. It is also said that he drove the snakes out of Ireland – a country not known for its vast snake population, unless this is a metaphor for conniving personalities or something else. He died on March 17 and the observance of his death became a celebration of life – his and others – which explains why penitent Christians, who have been observing Lent with a 40 day strict ban on overeating and drinking alcohol, temporarily break those vows to mark the day with green colored beverages of all sorts, often to the point of drunkenness.
It is this part of the tradition that seems to have caught on and spread to countries on every continent. In recent year, even Japan holds a St Patricks Day parade. Ask anyone you meet, a non-Irish fan of the day, wearing bright green today to fit in to the tradition, but with little or no knowledge of the reason for the celebration, ask them what St. Patrick’s Day means to them and you’ll hear something about wearing green, if they throw in the word shamrock, you might ask if they know the significance, or what it looks like, etc. What most people do know is that today, the Irish pubs are filled, green beers and cocktails are being consumed everywhere and a lot of people are waking up with hangovers tomorrow. I am not suggesting that you embarrass anyone. That is never the intent. But what are we really celebrating here?
Of course we should celebrate Irish culture and their contribution to the melting pot that is our world. But let’s call a spade a spade. I don’t see you wearing red and white when it’s Canada Day. I don’t see you wearing black green and gold on August 6th when I celebrate my Jamaican heritage. Remember that day last year when Usain Bolt won the triple triple in the Olympics and all the Jamaicans donned their flags and ran around their offices? I remember the way you looked at me like I was crazy. But today, you showed up with a green outfit, a shamrock sticking out of your green felt hat and I know you don’t have any ties to Ireland other than the fact that you’re leaving work early to go march in the parade because afterwards, they’re giving out stickers for free green drinks. I see you. I know what you’re doing and I want you to know that it’s okay. It’s American to absorb other cultures and spread the love and spread the acceptance. If that’s how we become more united, I say all for it. If that’s how we promote a stronger, more unified nation, then bring on the green.
Go Green, I always say. I just didn’t know what I meant before. I thought green was the color for the traffic(and the free flow of ideas) to start moving again. I thought green was the color that showed you were making good eco-friendly decisions to ensure environmental sustainability. I thought green was just the prettiest one of the colors from the Jamaican flag. I thought green meant greenback and Go Green, meant we were promoting the idea of making money and moving forward for success. That’s okay. Green for Ireland and St Patricks Day too.
So Go Green!
Are you celebrating St. Patrick’s Day today? Why or why not?