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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Posted by purplemary54 on March 17, 2013

A number of years ago, I read a fine book titled How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill (spoiler alert: it has something to do with their copying of classical and religious texts, thus helping to save a great deal of Western culture from Barbarian hordes).  This article over at Slate reminded me of that book.  One of the figures Cahill writes about is the legendary Saint Patrick, who was actually more famous for converting the Irish natives to Christianity than banishing snakes.  St. Patrick’s Day was for generations a quiet, serious, sober religious holiday in Ireland.  But then the Americans got a hold of it.

It’s a well-known rumor that there are more Irish people living in the United States than there are in Ireland.  I don’t know how true that actually is, but I do know there was a mass immigration from Ireland in the 1800s, mostly to escape the Great Potato Famine.  And the Irish brought with them their culture and habits.  Irish become synonymous with drinking in this country.  Now it’s a fact that folks on the other side of the pond generally consume more alcohol than we do over here, but that is something common to all of the U.K. and Europe, not just Ireland.  My father recalls that his Irish grandmother was opposed to drinking whiskey, but loved her chips and beer (which probably contributed to the untreated diabetes that led to her death).  But it’s probably unfair to lump all Irish people into one big, alcoholic mass.

But it was Irish-American celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day that created the, um, festive attitude that surrounds the holiday today.  In this country, it just isn’t a holiday until there is: A) a parade, and B) a large quantity of alcohol consumed.  Although St. Patrick’s Day does have the benefit in my eyes of not being one of those holidays where people combine their booze with explosives.  I figured a good song to celebrate today would be any song from the Pogues, who are a notoriously boozy band.  I’ve grown quite fond of the Pogues over the years.  There’s something dignified in the way the carry the torch of their cultural history, blending it with punk and rock influences to bring it to new generations.  It’s damn fine music.  Of course, that might just be the Irish in me.

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