This could be a problem.
Now, I’m not claiming any kind of “sixth sense” or innate ability to look into the future, but every now and then a situation comes along that sends up red flags — metaphorically screaming to be paid attention to and heeded. This weekend appears to fit into that scenario quite nicely.
See, St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Saturday, and that means the Ocean City parade will actually take place on the holiday, people won’t have to call into work to participate in various festivities and I might need to be hooked up to an IV sometime Sunday morning. It’s the Perfect Storm, if you will.
I love this holiday. None of the frenzied rush of Christmas, no having to move early on a Sunday morning to find some colored eggs for breakfast that some smarmy bunny hid from plain view and no cranberry sauce — the one entity that prevents Thanksgiving from being slotted higher on my holiday power rankings.
However, St. Patrick’s Day is certainly packed with a level of commercialism and neo-traditions that cause many to lose focus of the spirit behind the day. Oh, that doesn’t make it unique from other holidays, but it is a little unsettling, nonetheless.
The intent of the day is to honor St. Patrick, the man widely considered to be the lightning rod for the spread of Catholicism in Ireland, the exterminator of all things slithery from the Emerald Isle and the visionary who used the three leaves of a shamrock to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity. It is a day for Irish Catholics to reflect on his contributions, come together to revel in the joy of a collective Irish spirit and to unite in a nationalistic pride of where we live or where our families were rooted. The landscape is dotted with Irish flags, T-shirts bearing carefree messages and a wave of green that inspires pinching for those not choosing to clothe themselves in such attire. In a sense, it is often the first showing of green each spring.
I do come by my love for this holiday honestly. My father, a pretty mild-mannered guy who everybody genuinely likes, annualy turned into a Hilton sister every St. Patrick’s Day. He’d wake up, put on his tie with the blinking shamrocks on it and “go off to work.” Then he’d return that evening with a shamrock painted on his forehead and a rather poor rendition of “Danny Boy” spewing from his mouth, while the entire metropolitan area of Washington, D.C. endured a shortage of Jameson for the next few weeks.
But, man, he loved it.
And, by osmosis, I learned to love it, as well. See, his love for the New York Yankees certainly never stuck with me. And, though I do like jazz music, I only listen to it when I’m around him or writing this ridiculous column every week. But this day, and the hoopla that surrounds it ... oh, this one I ate up from the start.
The joy my father found in the day led me to want to learn more — to know what made St. Patrick so important, and why people I was close to put so much effort and love into the festivities. I discovered that St. Patrick was born in Wales, sometime around the year 385. His birth name was probably Maewyn, and he was a Pagan until he turned 16.
That was when he was reportedly sold to slavery by pirates or some kind of Irish marauders, depending on what you read. After about six years, he escaped slavery and went to the monastery in Gaul, where he became a devout student of the Catholic faith. Eventually, he was made the second bishop to Ireland, and he spent the rest of his days spreading the faith to the nation — and continuing to showcase his abilities to escape, as he was reportedly arrested on several occasions by Celtic Druids for heresy, and subsequently got out of custody time and time again. I’m guessing that’s where the tradition of Irish being arrested on St. Patrick’s Day began.
A joke ... I swear, Tricia McNamee!
So, anyway, St. Patrick served in his role as bishop for about 30 years, led a sweeping religious reform and reportedly died on March 17, 461 — though some reports have him living until as long as 493. And, to be fair, some say he didn’t even die on March 17.
Regardless, his works have endured for centuries, and he’s as revered today as ever. The day of his memory is reserved for religious observance and pride in a beautiful, proud nation that chooses to honor its heroes, rather than tear them down, as we often do. Oh, and Guinness ... lots and lots of Guinness.