People Turning Forty Shades Of Green
FOR THOSE PEOPLE WHO ARE IRISH, have Irish ancestry, wish they were Irish, believe that they could be Irish, or just behave like they are Irish – today is the biggest, best, most misunderstood, most regretted the next day, and hard to explain to the non-Irish, day in the year.
St. Patrick’s Day or how a nice English boy came to Ireland under duress, and eventually convinced a pretty wild bunch of characters to accept Christianity. And all of this before Guinness brewed his first pint.
St. Patrick, according to “Catholic Online.Org” was born in England in 387 AD (Not C.E., but AD). This was a long time before the Beatles or Elton John, but, rumor has it, suspiciously close to when Keith Richards was born.
Irish pirates kidnapped young Patrick and took him back to Ireland as a slave. Apocryphal legend has it that Patrick was actually a Kelly Slave. Once in Ireland he was made to spend the next six years tending sheep. I’ve been to Ireland and the sheep don’t need tending. They go wherever they please and head home come suppertime – a lot like college students.
Imagine what he must have felt like. A teenager stuck in the middle of nowhere with just sheep for company. Not ideal for a pubescent youth. Poor kid.
Pat eventually made his way back to England and, after seeing what his job prospects were there (more sheep), he opted for the priesthood and went back to Ireland.
The legend goes that he was able to convert some pretty influential Druids (“Influential Druids”- Not a phrase I thought I’d ever be writing down.) and began building churches all over the island.
Patrick kept at it, converting and building for the next forty years. When I think back over forty years what pops up in my mind that the Billboard #1 Pop hit song in 1976 was, “Silly Love Songs” by Paul McCartney and Wings. It was a slow year for me.
At the end of those forty years he died (St. Patrick not Paul McCartney) in 461 AD (See earlier parenthetical notation.) – on March 17th – hence the placement of the modern holiday of St. Patrick’s Day.
Catholic Online.Org also says that St. Patrick is buried either inside or out in the front yard of the Down Cathedral in Northern Ireland (which has to gall folks farther south in the Republic of Ireland.).
Not to rock the boat, but there are several other spots around the island that claim to have his remains, but those stories I think) are fueled by the desire for tourists, and beer.
Over the centuries and the Irish Diaspora that has planted the Irish around the globe, has turned St. Patrick’s Day from a day of thoughtful veneration into a worldwide kegger. The Irish know how to party.
Nobody ever thought of dying the river in Chicago in honor of St. Polycarp of Smyrna. The Turks just can’t whoop it up like the Irish.
The party atmosphere surrounding St. Patrick’s Day is unrivaled. There is a huge St. Patrick’s Day parade, with thirty thousand marchers, in Tokyo today. Picture it – thirty thousand Japanese leprechauns.
My guess is that, outside of Ireland itself, any real knowledge of St. Patrick is limited to beer ads and strangely ugly costumes made in China.
I have the Irish in my ancestry – about 25% according to family lore, but I don’t have any real plans for this unusual holiday – other than to stay off the road when the bars close and the Quasi, Pseudo, and Flammable Irish get behind the wheel to head home.
Saints preserve us! Any of them. All of them – even St. Patrick.