St. Patrick’s Day has taken the same road as Christmas. Many of the people who celebrate it aren’t Irish (although as one of my facebook friends pointed out, St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish). Christmas is a Christian holiday to celebrate the birth of our Savior. Many who celebrate it aren’t even Christian. During the Christmas season Christians and non-Christians alike spend lots of money on each other, visit family, spread seasonal cheer, watch parades and, of course, drink beer at parties. St. Patrick’s day is all of those as well – except maybe the first three.
We used to walk to school on the west end of Syracuse, NY, through an area called Tipperary Hill. Lots of bona fide Irish people there. The traffic light at the main intersection has the green light on top and the red on the bottom. You’d expect there to be accidents with color blind drivers, but I can’t remember any. I’ve heard that city officials have tried to put a proper light there but they’ve given up because it always ends up being vandalized. The proud Irish have claimed that hill!
There’s a pub on the main road called Coleman’s (check out their leprechaun phone booth in the pic) that offers green beer around St. Patrick’s Day. People would be lined way up the block early in the morning to partake in this brilliant gimmick. If you haven’t heard, Syracuse is Orange country. The nickname for the Syracuse University sports teams is “Orangemen”. I was a huge fan and still cheer for them if Ohio State isn’t in the running.
But the Irish don’t take kindly to wearing orange on their day – something to do with an English-protestant king (William of Orange) defeating an Irish-Catholic king in battle near Dublin in the 1600s. So, whoever decided to call SU’s teams the Orangemen . . . not funny. I was unaware of this faux pas and wore a bright orange SU shirt on the way to school one St. Pat’s day right past Coleman’s. The ensuing insults weren’t so bad, but being chased down the street by a couple over-zealous partyers was a bit nerve-racking.
There are genuine Irish people who celebrate being Irish. They know their history and their customs. Unlike the saying, not everybody is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. I imagine some of the authentic Irish look on with disdain at those who’ve diluted the meaning of their festive day. My friends who are truly Irish put their energy into celebrating who they are – not on grumbling about who other people aren’t.
Christmas and Easter could be much more festive for Christians if we’d do the same. Besides, the Irish have a disadvantage in keeping their festivities pure: you can’t pray for somebody to become Irish.