Wednesday, March 17, 2010
It's that time of year again!
When I was a jaded high schooler, newly converted from Catholicism to "Wicca,"* I didn't have a good understanding of ancient or medieval history. I knew quite a bit about American history thanks to years and years of emphasis in school, but otherwise... I knew a bit about feudalism, I knew that the Egyptians were some sort of polytheists who built the pyramids and believed in an afterlife, and I had a vague idea that the Druids were from Ireland. For years after, even into my earliest Druidic studies, I was convinced that St. Patrick's Day was a crappy holiday because it celebrated how mean old St. Patrick kicked the Druids (aka The Snakes) out of Ireland.
Fast forward to the last ... oh, year and a half. My interest in Druidism has grown so that it's an incredibly important part of my life. I read about it a lot. Inspired by Celtic Reconstructionist methodologies, I read history book after history book, even the dry ones, to obtain a greater understanding of my ancestors and the culture I feel most inspired by. It is impossible for me to wag my finger at St. Patrick after reading as much as I have. I'm not alone in this revelation. Several Pagan bloggers have been discussing their feelings and understandings of the holiday. To make a long story short, St. Patrick has been framed. He's a scapegoat among the Pagan community - a largely innocent Christian victim to our community's "Waaaa, you stole my toy!" attitude.**
In other words, I have less of a "bah humbug" attitude about St. Patrick's Day. A couple years ago, a friend of mine (I swear, I think it was one of my sister-in-laws), who is neither Pagan nor Christian, told me that she prefers to celebrate St. Patrick's day in the spirit of her Irish ancestry. I've come to feel similarly, especially when considering what my immigrant ancestors went through. I come from a proud, strong, spiritual, creative, and tenacious people. I am honored to have Irish blood flowing through my veins.
That said, St. Patrick's Day cannot escape my criticism entirely. Although I don't get very "into" St. Patrick's Day,*** I'm not against celebrating my culture. I also recognize that many minority groups join in because the Irish are, more or less, a success story in America. Although they were persecuted and abused, they climbed the social ladder and many of us are successful and happy today thanks to their efforts****. However, the celebration is just way, way too commercial. There are too many crappy, plastic trinkets that end up in garbage limbo, too many styrofoam shamrocks, too many greasy attempts at Irish food, and too much ignorant debauchery. I use such language because it's true! I love a good drink and a reason to party, but on St. Patrick's Day, at least I know what the hell I'm celebrating. It's unfortunate how many Irish wannabes and, even worse, Irish descendants haven't a clue what their ancestors went through. Worse yet, most don't care. They just like the excuse to drink. The only reason St. Patrick's Day continues to thrive is, in my opinion, because of its association to booze. Why do you think St. Joseph's Day isn't a big deal in the States? Why is Cinco de Mayo a hit but Chinese New Year isn't? It's the booze. The ignorant masses just want to drink. Any excuse. If you asked them what they were celebrating and why, I bet they wouldn't be able to explain. Bah humbug to that!
So roll on my Irish loving friends! Have a fun (responsible) time but remember what the day is about. Sláinte!
*I put Wicca in quotations because I'm coming to the conclusion that, while I read about it and attempted to practice Wiccan liturgy, I wasn't really a Wiccan. This has nothing to do with initiation or anything. I simply wasn't living a Wiccan life. I called myself one, but I was more akin to a Catholic who rarely prays and only goes to church on Easter. I should expand on this in a future entry...
**It's obviously more complicated than this. There are other stories the Patrick myth has grown out of, and people do love to perpetuate falsities or hyperboles.
*** It's still a Catholic holiday and has a history of solemnity in Ireland. I'm not Catholic, don't care to celebrate the St. much, and prefer to let Catholics do their thing in peace.
**** Before anyone points this out, yes I'm aware this was facilitated by skin color.