I have the pleasure of working for a very humorous Scotsman. A few weeks ago he asked if I could do something on the 17th. I looked at him cross-eyed and asked him, “Are you kidding? That’s St. Patrick’s Day! I can’t work on St. Patrick’s Day!!”
He rolled his eyes and responded jokingly, “You Americans are crazy.”
His reaction made me wonder if we here on this side of the pond perhaps take the holiday, one my friends and I often refer to as the “High Holy Day”, perhaps a bit too seriously. Is it silly for us to take the day off from work, travel long distances for parades or parties, or pull that tacky shamrock sweatshirt we haven’t worn in a year from out of the back of the closet?
There is a sort of “amateur hour” quality to St. Patrick’s Day as well that can be a bit frustrating. For one thing, it is nearly impossible to get into my local Irish tavern, no less have a barstool waiting for me as on every other day of the year. You have to squeeze your way to the bar as you navigate a sea of people you’ve never seen in the place before. And they are all singing one cliché song after.
So I can understand why my Scottish friend may see all this as a bit silly. But that is also because he doesn’t understand what it means to us here. There is something uniquely American about St. Patrick’s Day in this country. For better or for worse, the Irish here have had a very different journey then in other parts of the world. Any religious aspect has been nearly lost on this holiday. Now it is a celebration of the heritage and culture that we are lucky enough to have been blessed with.
We get together and toast to our loved ones, proudly boast of where our families originated, or remember with a tear in our eye how our grandfathers would sing along to “Danny Boy”. Sure there is a lot of silliness to St. Patrick’s Day. But I am not the only one who ranks it at the top of my list of favorite days of the year. To us it is much more than green beer, corned beef, or the dreaded “Unicorn Song”. It is a day where our families multiply to include the millions who have shared similar journeys and familiar stories.
So here’s to a healthy, safe, and laughter-filled St. Patty’s Day. Slainte, my friends!!