I’m Irish-American. As in really Irish-American – I am a dual citizen of Ireland and the United States. But for some reason, every March 17 the whole country seems to care more about being Irish on than the Irish do. On Saint Patrick’s Day, it seems that some Americans are more patriotic about their Irish heritage – or pretended heritage – that it’s become a bigger holiday here than it is in Ireland.
It may surprise the drunken crowds painted green here in the U.S., but traditionally the Irish celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by attending church. Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland in the Catholic faith. He was born in Britain in 387, which was under Roman rule at the time, and was kidnapped by Irish pirates and sold as a slave in Ireland, which was still pagan. There he worked until he was able to escape at the age of 20 and returned to Britain, until he became a devout Catholic decided to go back to Ireland to spread his faith.
A lot of what the average American associates with Irish culture comes from St. Patrick. He is famous for driving the snakes out of Ireland. The legend states that during a 40-day fast, snakes attacked Patrick and he chased them to the sea and banished them from the island.
He is also well-known for utilizing the three-leaved clover, or a shamrock, to explain the Holy Trinity. He used the three leaves to explain God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit and their relationship to each other.
Personally, I think the way that the Irish were celebrating this day was perfect, but that was before everyone and their mother wanted to be Irish. Saint Patrick is a very Irish dude. He saved the leprechauns from snakes and spread Catholicism throughout the island, and now most Irish are Catholic. I am! Catholicism united the island in its own way and prevented some fighting between the tribes that ruled the island.
But as an Irish citizen and a United States citizen living in the United States, it’s kinda fucked that everyone takes the day to mock the Irish and hijack our heritage in the name of consumerism. Irish immigrants in the 18th and 19th centuries established St. Patrick’s Day as a way to celebrate their culture in a country where they were often discriminated against, shoved into the worst jobs without rights. But hey, let’s use it perpetuate the idea that the island is full of drunks and call it a day!
Not surprisingly, Donald Trump is a perfect example of what I mean. Americans were laughing at President Trump’s newest “Make America Great Again” hat that sports a four-leaved clover, which is not a shamrock.
It is believed that four-leaved clovers are lucky because they are rare, but that does not make them a shamrock.
— Official Team Trump (@TeamTrump) March 2, 2017
This new president just tried to take advantage of an entire complex heritage and use it to boost sales and get higher approval ratings. It’s ironic, considering how his own rhetoric is encouraging hate crimes against minorities of color today, when the Irish were also subjected to the same kind of discrimination and harassment in 19th century America.
Irish people are not just silly drunks, and we don’t spend our free time dancing at the end of rainbows. So instead of blacking out with Irish Car Bombs (because civil war is so funny, amirite?), maybe take this Saint Patrick’s Day to understand Ireland and the complexity of its people. Learn a bit about the history of the island and its awesome Celtic heritage. There’s more to Ireland than potatoes and Guinness. Consider reading Oscar Wilde or Yeats, or just watching a documentary about the culture instead of downing shots.