Celebrating things you wouldn’t
By Cazzy Lewchuk, Staff Writer
March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday associated with green everything, Ireland, and alcohol consumption. Bars have Guinness specials, friends pinch friends not dressed in a certain colour, and the whole thing is an excuse to get drunk. The holiday originated from a Christian celebration honouring the Saint Patrick, a missionary, bishop, and patron saint of Ireland who lived in the fifth century. Today, in Ireland, it is a huge five-day festival celebrating the country’s culture and heritage, showcasing all that the nation has to offer.
Around the world, particularly in North America, businesses cash in on this cultural celebration in a secular and bastardized fashion. The majority of people downing pints in pubs downtown have no significant Irish heritage; many pretend to be so as an excuse to mock accents and ask for kisses. March 17 has become an odd socially acceptable period of cultural appropriation, when people can pretend to be of another ethnic descent.
Historically, Irish people have often faced mass discrimination, both for their national heritage and religious affiliation. St. Patrick’s Day is the equivalent in Ireland to Canada Day or the Fourth of July—an incredibly important time to celebrate the country’s culture and roots. Its mass celebration by non-Irish people, particularly the abundance of leprechaun and shamrocks, pushes stereotypes and infringes on a group of people that are in many ways marginalized.
On the other hand, even St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland is a departure from the original Christian tradition. Religiously, it is traditionally celebrated by commemoration, themed services, and feasts in many Irish churches (Old Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican). The restrictions on eating and drinking during Lent are lifted, which is why boozing is such a common part of the celebration.
Most holidays are bastardizations and manipulated from their original form, particularly religious-turned-secular ones. Christmas and Easter have Christian origins that have nothing to do with Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Easter eggs, mistletoe, baskets, or gift giving. Nevertheless, such things are incorporated into the festivities by Christians and non-Christians alike. As traditions get passed down throughout centuries and our culture becomes more diverse and inclusive, it’s no wonder that the roots of these holidays are lost.
The beer drinkers with shamrock tattoos who have never been to Ireland on March 17 don’t mean any harm. They’re merely having fun by participating in a socially acceptable societal celebration. Still, there’s something insensitive and almost culturally prejudiced about becoming too immersed in a cultural tradition and pretending to be of that culture. There’s a difference between participating in the fun of another culture’s celebration, and completely overtaking it altogether.