St Patrick Shamrock ImageMaybe  “hate”  is too strong a word to describe my feelings for and about St. Patrick’s Day. I suppose I feel about it much as I feel about the Twelfth of July in  Norneverland . It’s a day that is fine as a holiday,  but it has no other real frisson to it . Saint Patrick has no more relevance to me than the  sainted and sanctified King William of Orange . At a guess, I ‘d say the known and generally accepted personae  of  both men are mythological constructs anyway . They are both steeped in storytelling , legend and fable that has little to do with the actual history of past events and more to do with the manipulations of Church,State and the joy of a good yarn.

St Patrick’s Day in Norneverland has become quite a partisan festival, known to be “owned” by one section of the community . Many would wish it to be otherwise but  that is not the reality. They are lighting up Stormont in greenery this year for the big day , but they are balancing that with dayglo-orange lighting for the annual Orangefest in July. Checks and balances for the natives, you see. It is celebrated mostly by Nationalist or Roman Catholic sections of the population, almost entirely. This may not be the case further afield across the world where distance and time has made it a wholly Irish celebration. “Irishness” is still in dispute in Norneverland. In far -flung parts of the world , everyone wants to claim their Irishness on this sole day, whether they have a drop of Irish blood in them or not; they all want a piece of that green craic.

Saints figure very highly in Roman Catholic mythology. Saint Patrick is one of these glowing creations whose providence stretches back into the wooly past before “proper” recorded history really began , when the  pagan natives of Ireland were hoarding cattle as symbols of power , living in glorified transient tent -homes not unlike the Native Americans, and sleeping and living in huge and heavy cloaks  replete with eco-systems of their own.There has been a whole pantheon of these glorified dead -beings , sanctified and rhapsodic, sitting looking down  from some heavenly plane . They have been created and exist mostly in the imaginations of those who believe in such things and they have been created to sate that earthly need. To put it frankly, Popes  create these glorious and ecstatic creatures.They come from nowhere else.The sainted “Patrick” has been made for Irishmen and women to enjoy and lay claim to.His Christian beliefs were made believable to the Irish pagans by introducing the idea of the trinity which , with their multiplicity of  Celtic gods , made some sense to the Irish.Legend has it that he used the shamrock to do help explain this, which in retrospect was an excellent marketing tool and symbol, every bit as potent as the Coca Cola one.. Some say he came as a man from Cumbria  in Roman Britain but not one person really knows the real truth of his origin story. His origin was then tacked on  or around  the old pagan Spring festival of the goddess Ēostre  {Easter}…the Spring time of the earth’s renewal.When the church eventually got their calenar sorted , Patrick’s day was moved to it’s present day of the 17th of March…A break in the fasting of Lent, neatly avoiding the Eastertime renewal which also now encompassed the death and resurrection of the Christ.

None of this matters  now that that he is a  well-entrenched  Saint with a Big Hat, a green and gold  tunic  and a twisty hooked  golden crook , for dragging back  the odd skipping sheep which strays from the flock.

The other thing about St.Patrick’s Day is that because of these churchy manipulations and the gradual slippage of the four seasons, it is  now held at the wrong time of the year .It’s almost guaranteed to be  one of the worst days of the year weatherwise. I can recall rushing to the car with cold bedraggled children in tow, dodging gales and torrents of icy downpour on the glorious day. As the years peel by, the actual “saintly” religious  part of the equation becomes more tenuous and the celebratory function becomes more prominent and  the particular day has become to  gradually  end in alcoholic chaos.

Alcohol is the notional  and national drug of Saint Patrick now. St Patrick’s Day without the drowning of the symbolic shamrock in alcohol  would be a very staid and dry affair, indeed. This break in the supposed  fasting of Lent  has allowed  itself to all-out partying. The man himself  may never have  enjoyed the sting in the throat  of a well- quaffed ale  but he is now celebrated with the lowering of many pints of dark stout and drams of Irish Whiskey across the world.Maybe that was to keep the cold at bay..but  the Christian Patrick will never fully convert the Irish -pagan sensiblity and the love of a good party and a hearty raucous carouse. It almost goes against the grain to do so.

Personally , I’m all for any excuse for a celebratory party , but why oh why does it have to be in March? Now a St. Patrick’s Day celebration in  the warmth and sun of August…that might be something to party about!!


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