“My father and mother were Irish, and I am Irish, too.”
As Saint Patrick’s Day approaches, I keep remembering that song from our third-grade music book, which strove to examine music from an international perspective (without a “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” detour into “Come see the cultural appropriation inherent in the system!”)
I am proud of my Scots-Irish heritage. But at the time, when I discussed the music assignments with my father, it was unsettling to hear him talk about the song’s link to where I came from. You mean the stork is Irish? I thought storks flew around delivering babies. Now you tell me they haul infants around in paddy wagons?
Sadly, that’s far from the only thing problematic about St. Patrick’s Day.
I know it’s supposed to be an inclusive “the more the merrier” gesture; but it’s troubling when someone announces, “Everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.”
What if we started treating our other observances that way? Are we ready for “Everyone is president on Millard Fillmore’s Birthday”? Bicycles will go idle as youngsters fight over access to Air Force One. (“Oh, yeah? Well, my Secret Service agent can beat up your Secret Service agent.”)
Pinching an acquaintance who commits the mortal sin of failing to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day - now there’s a tradition that couldn’t possibly go wrong. Just think of the possibilities for someone to exploit that custom - someone like, I dunno, Andrew Cuomo. (“Sorry. I didn’t notice that you’re wearing a green bracelet. Or a humongous wedding ring. Or that I was using a Vulcan nerve pinch on your gluteus maximus. Or that this is August.”)
I am disturbed when the “Old Farmer’s Almanac” reports that cabbage seeds are often planted on St. Patrick’s Day, and that old-time farmers believed that to make them grow well, you needed to plant them while wearing your nightclothes. I suddenly imagined Victoria’s Secret models industriously planting cabbage seeds. Cabbage kickstarts enough bodily functions without me hyperventilating as well, thank you very much.
I feel uncomfortable that some people view Saint Patrick’s Day as just a convenient way to interrupt the sacrifices of Lent. I’ll fight against letting that attitude creep into traditional wedding vows. (“Forsaking all others...unless some civil servant dyes the river green!”)
I dread people without an ounce of Irish blood spouting off with “Top o’ the mornin’” and all the standard cliches. I think one of St. Patrick’s sermons was about the Special Corner of Hell where faux Irishmen, Halloween pirates and carolers greet one another with “Faith and begorrah,” “Arrrrr, matey!” and “Dickens of a Christmas!”
I don’t remember attempting this as a child, but I read that some children construct leprechaun traps to ensnare the little folklore creatures. (Give these juvenile delinquents a couple of weeks and they’ll be planting landmines along the Bunny Trail!)
Considering that Saint Patrick spent six years as a slave before he entered the priesthood, leprechaun traps are probably an insensitive tradition. Besides, if kids really did catch a leprechaun, they might have a hard time negotiating reparations later. (“Just stop waving that shillelagh and I’ll give you...three marbles...and a frog...and a half-eaten peanut butter sandwich...”)
Furthermore, it might give Bernie Sanders too many ideas. (“Surely there’s room for funding ‘small businessman traps.’ I know they’re all hiding a pot of gold somewhere...”)
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