Today, the Internet seems to be full of articles titled “10 things you didn’t know about St. Patrick’s Day,” or “Everything you know about St. Patrick’s Day is wrong.”
I’m not sure who these articles are geared towards, but they seem to comprise mostly of tidbits of information which I imagine most people who actually know about St. Patrick’s Day already know.
To be fair, there are plenty of people who don’t know anything about St. Patrick’s Day – which is perfectly fine. It is, after all, a somewhat obscure Catholic holiday primarily popularized in the United States.
Albeit among the more popular Saint’s Days, Saint Patrick’s Day isn’t particularly more notable than, say, St. Brigid’s Day.
St. Brigid, if you didn’t know, is another patron saint of Ireland. Sharing a name with the Celtic goddess Brigid, St. Brigid’s Day is February 1, marking the beginning of spring. In another not-coincidence, St. Brigid’s Day corresponds to an important Celtic cross-quarter holiday: Imbolic…which marks the beginning of spring.
In my matriarchal family, St. Brigid always seemed arguably more important – we didn’t celebrate St. Brigid’s Day, but we did have a St. Brigid’s cross – but somehow, nationally, the male St. Patrick seems to get all the glory.
It’s a complicated holiday to celebrate, though.
Saint Patrick is a patron saint of Ireland because he was one of the leading forces in Christianizing the Celtic nations.
He used the three-leaf clover – the Shamrock – to explain Catholicism’s trinity. He used the Celtic pentagram to describe the five wounds of Christ. Like other missionaries of his day, he took pagan customs and symbols and wielded them for his Christian cause.
Famously, St. Patrick “drove all the snakes from Ireland” – a particularly miraculous feat since the isle didn’t have snakes to begin with.
Or could it be, as some argue, that “snakes” is just a metaphor for driving out “the old, evil, pagan ways out of Ireland”?
Well, that’s nice.
St. Patrick’s Day isn’t just a day where we stereotype the Irish as drunkards and all get to be “Irish for a day.”
It’s a day of history – about loss and pain, about new beginnings and a complicated past.
We raise a pint to hope for the future and to properly mourn the past. We raise a pint because maybe that’s all there is in this life. We raise a pint, indeed.
Eat, drink, and be merry – for tomorrow we may die.