Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I Don't Celebrate St. Patrick's Day

Today is St. Patrick's Day. There were parades in many major cities, including New York, Chicago, Boston, and several others. Thousands, perhaps millions, of Americans wore green today. Bars serve green beer. Chicago even dyes the Chicago River green. And while thousands of people celebrated this day, I did not.

It's not that I have anything against St. Patrick's Day or St. Patrick. That having been said, as I see it, unless one happens to be Irish, Nigerian (he is the patron saint of Nigeria), Montserratian (he is the patron saint of Montserrat), Catholic, an engineer, or a paralegal, there is not too much point in celebrating the holiday. Since I am none of those things (my mother's family made it through 400 years of living in North America without marrying any Irishmen; my father's family 300 years without marrying any), I don't see any real need to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. To me it would be no different than celebrating Songkran. Since I am not Thai or Buddhist, I don't celebrate that holiday either.

Of course, in the United States the fact that I do not celebrate St. Patrick's day does cause some problems. Here these seems to be an assumption that everyone celebrates the day, at least if they are Northern European descent. For that reason I do get asked very often why I am not wearing green (I do not get pinched--the people who know me know better than that) and if I am eating corned beef (the answer to which is, "No," I never eat corned beef). And most seem mystified as to why I show no real enthusiasm for the day. It does get tiresome explaining that as I am neither Irish nor Catholic, I see no reason to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

Do not get me wrong. I certainly don't want to rain on anyone's parade. I know that traditions and customs are important to me, so I do want those who celebrate St. Patrick's Day to enjoy the day and have a lot of fun. I fully realise that St. Patrick's Day is very important to many and that in this country it is a de facto major holiday (I suspect that more people celebrate St. Patrick's Day rather than the legally recognised Labour Day). At the same time I do wish those who celebrate St. Patrick's Day would be a little more considerate to those of us who do not celebrate the day. Do not ask us why we are not wearing green or if we are going to eat corned beef. Do not expect us to go drinking green beer on the night of St. Patrick's Day. Simply let us go about our day as we do every day. For my part, I will not ask you why you are not wearing a leek or a daffodil come next St. David's Day.


Love said...

So since ya' sound like a big Green Grinch - you're right - No need to wear it for a day, you can just continue to be it all year long - Ha!

Mercurie said...

LOL. Well, everyone should be green all year around. Wearing it is a different matter! :-)

Holte Ender said...

I am guessing your ancestry is a little bit Welsh?

Kate Gabrielle said...

I'm Irish, but I'd celebrate it no matter what... I think it's a fun day. I celebrate most holidays in the secular sense, so having Catholic ancestry doesn't have anything to do with it either. (ie. Christmas, Easter, etc. in my house we always knew about the Easter Bunny & Santa but not much else..) My dad isn't Christian, but his favorite holiday is Christmas! I don't think you need to be Irish or Catholic to just have fun talking with a fake Irish accent, dying food green and looking outside for leprechauns, four leaf clovers and rainbows ;)

Tommy Salami said...

I find it a nice day to snobbily celebrate my Irish heritage. I don't drink green beer. I like corned beef. Call me Mr. Jiggs :)

But I agree, the holiday, like cinco de Mayo, lost its luster when it became "hey, everybody drink day." Though I will celebrate Bastille Day whenever I see a festival for it, despite not being French. Because I dig the idea of people storming a prison, and beheading aristocrats. The Feast of San Gennaro (for my Italian side) has stayed more religious and thus less diluted, but it's also a more somber affair.

Raquelle said...

Just to give my perspective. I'm in no way Irish. I'm first generation American and my father's family is from Portugal and my mother's family is mixed from the Dominican Republic, Spain, Lebanon and tracing back further to Africa.

Also, I was raised in a religion that prevented me from celebrating ANY holidays. Plus both of my parent's never celebrated things like St. Patrick's Day because they didn't have that in their country.

With that being said, I like to celebrate holidays as an adult. Although I'm not Irish, I like Irish things so I don't mind donning green and making some Irish food.

I think the thing about holidays that I missed when I was growing up because I wasn't allowed to participate, is the community it develops. You can join in celebration of something (no matter how superfluous it is) with complete strangers. I had so much fun seeing so many people wear green yesterday! It's holidays and a few other things that bring people together in... well something! There is not a lot these days that do that.

I also liked how Twitter and Facebook lit up with all the St. Patrick's Day stuff. It was just something for everyone to talk about and participate in!

Mercurie said...

Thank you for the comments, everyone!

While I did not go into it my post, a lot of my indifference to St. Patrick's Day comes from feeling no emotional resonance as far it is concerned whatsoever. Growing my family celebrated almost all of the major, American holidays (both secular and religious), from Christmas to Easter to Halloween, but St. Patrick's Day was simply another day in our household. And this wasn't unusual in the area in which I live. Until the past several years, most people did not celebrate St. Patrick's Day. I suspect this stems from the fact that people of Irish descent are a minority here. Most are of English, German, Scottish, or Welsh descent.

Raquelle, one thing I do appreciate about St. Patrick's Day is that one does get to see more Irish culture this year (such as step dancing, Irish music, et. al.), which I do appreciate! I also have to agree about holidays is that they do develop community. It is one of the things I love most about the Yuletide, Halloween, and so on.

Tommy, I do think you have a point about holidays losing their lustre when they become "Everyone drink day." I think what people lose when they simply use holidays as an excuse for partying is that most holidays do have a real meaning behind them--an event they commemorate or an idea they uphold. I have to say I have never celebrated Bastille Day (I haves some French blood in me, but they were of the class that went to the guillotine...), but I do celebrate Guy Fawkes Day each day! I am mostly English in descent, and bonfires are most enjoyable!

Holte, I do have some Welsh ancestry, although it is very little. My mum's family made it out of England without marrying any Irishmen, but not without marrying some Scots and Welshmen! :-)