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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Celebtate Everything?

I've seen little graphics popping up on Facebook from time to time, spouting the thought that one should celebrate everything, any chance one gets. But I am not so sure that I agree with that thought.

If one means it in the sense of "celebrating" and taking joy in the moment, of embracing life to the fullest, of "grabbing hold tightly, letting go lightly"of the ordinary moments of ordinary days... of setting aside and actually taking the time to smell those proverbial roses, by all means yes!

If, however, one follows the path of least resistance and grabs on to the typical "celebration" of events and holidays to which they have no connection, perhaps things need to be looked at again. Consider Saint Patrick's day.

If you are, or have a family tradition rooted in the Catholic church liturgy and ritual, you have many days throughout the year -- each devoted to a different saint -- to recognize. Now, I am not and do not have any connection to that tradition so I am honestly not sure exactly how these days are marked; I would think prayer would be involved, though, and perhaps the lighting of candles.  I would not, however, expect a saint to be particularly moved by drunken revelry. Which brings us to consider the apparently widespread traditions in the US related to this particular saint's day... which has become allegedly a celebration of  all things Irish both by those of that cultural heritage and especially by those who have no connection at all to the Emerald Isle.

I have always thought his tradition a bit odd. This morning, on NPR, I heard a bit of verse penned by an Irish-American writer (I believe he is) who pretty much put words to my unformed thoughts. I quote him below.

Drowning the Shamrock

"Hail glorious Saint Patrick dear saint of our isle
On us thy poor children look down with a smile —"
But I'm not singing hymns and I'm not saying prayers
No, I'm gritting my teeth as I walk down the stairs
And into the street with these louts fiercely drinking
And screeching and lurching, and here's what I'm thinking —
They're using a stereotype, a narrow example,
A fraction, not even a marketing sample
To imitate Ireland, from which they don't come!
So unless that's just stupid, unless it's plain dumb,
All these kids from New Jersey and the five boroughs
And hundreds of cities, all drowning their sorrows,
With bottles and glasses and heads getting broken
(Believe me, just ask the mayor of Hoboken)
All that mindlessness, shouting and getting plain stocious —
That isn't Irish, that's simply atrocious.
I've another word too for it, this one's more stinging
I call it "racism." See, just 'cause you're singing
Some drunken old ballad on Saint Patrick's Day
Does that make you Irish? Oh, no — no way.
Nor does a tee-shirt that asks you to kiss them —
If they never come back I surely won't miss them
Or their beer cans and badges and wild maudlin bawling
And hammered and out of it, bodies all sprawling.
They're not of Joyce or of Yeats, Wilde, or Shaw.
How many Nobel Laureates does Dublin have? Four!
Think of this as you wince through Saint Patrick's guano —
Not every Italian is Tony Soprano.
If you want to celebrate your ethnic and cultural heritage, do a little research, folks! If you want to celebrate someone else's cultural heritage, do a little research, as well. Wear a leek on your lapel on March 1 for Wales if you have Welsh ancestors, as I do,  or find other saints.