It’s that time of year again.
Shamrocks everywhere. Tiny cartoon leprechauns line the streets. Everything seems to have turned the same shade of acid green, and the smell of beer is so thick in the air you wonder if it’s coming from the people themselves. Ah yes…the glorious return of St Patrick’s Day.
But what actually does this National Day of dress ups and drinking represent? The simple answer would lead one to suggest Ireland. The celebration, however, is based on the Catholic religion, as you may have inferred from the name. It was initially named in honour of the 5th century patron saint of Ireland, who found God after a traumatic childhood of kidnap and slavery, turning to the priesthood for salvation. The story is not quite as light-hearted as the festivities would suggest. To convert a large proportion of Ireland to Catholicism, St Patrick was responsible for driving out a large number of pagans who refused to convert, and was said to have forced thousands to turn away from their initial faiths.
Now what, if anything, does this have to do with the drunken revels of March 17th? Well, it could be argued that there isn’t too much in common between the festival’s origins and its current celebrations, especially since the holiday was secularised in 1903. However, it can easily be argued that the festival has retained its value when it comes to choosing your guns and sticking with them no matter the cost. Just as St Patrick fought valiantly to thrust his beliefs in the public eye, so too do the partiers on his day fling themselves under public judgement, completely willing to be judged by those who, let’s be honest, are probably having less fun. And there’s no denying stubbornness pays off: several attempts to tone down the festivities in Ireland were instead replaced with a National day off when so many people turned up to work drunk that it was deemed ‘unsafe.’ Note to self- that’s how I can get out of my next economics exams.
So this St Patrick’s day, don’t think about the origins of the celebration. They don’t matter- the true meaning of the day is etched in its history. The green glory is about standing tall and declaring “This is me. This is what I do. Take it or leave it.” Through years of disapproval, the Irish have looked at the people who told them to sit down and be silent to “Bugger off” (as they would so eloquently put it). That’s the lesson we should all take away- we are all proud, fun, vibrant people and we have a right to be alive while we are here. And if anyone tries to interfere- well. It’s hard to hear them over a pint of bright green Guinness.