It’s not often found in American history that almost two million people immigrate in less than a decade. It’s also not a regular occurrence that the Irish, and Irish-Americans, are allowed an entire day to celebrate their heritage and Ireland’s conversion from Paganism to Christianity.Some people seem to forget that being Irish hasn’t always been a welcomed trait; Irish immigrants were not warmly welcomed by the United States. They could only get jobs that no one else would take, when they werenÃ¸t met first by signs reading “No Irish Need Apply,” as if the Irish were not worthy of standing on American soil.
So when the Irish immi-grants forged their own paths and became successful, St. Patrick’s Day which began on his death on March 17 in 461 AD became a day they celebrated their Irishness and also their success in the new country.
These days, with the commercialization of just about every holiday on the calendar, Americans seem to hypocritically welcome St. Patrick’s Day, but of course not without adding their own not-so-Irish elements.
Americans have converted an Irish holiday that is supposed to be celebrated by going to Mass and quietly celebrating one’s Irish culture, into one of wearing green, drinking a lot of green beer (which will not be found in Ireland itself), and joking about eating corned beef and cabbage with “Irish” potatoes for dessert, it doesn’t take an Irishman to tell you that coconuts aren’t a common ingredient found in Irish dishes.
Essentially, Americans have stripped the Irish of a day that has religious significance and replaced it with a national party day where every American claims to be “Irish,” when really they have no clue what it means to be Irish.
Saint Patrick has long played an important role in the conception of Irish identity; thus, when Americans taint the holiday in order to benefit themselves, they rape the Irish identity, stripping Irish-Americans of their honored heritage.
Irish-Americans no longer are looked at as survivors despite the many hardships that they had encountered over the centuries, but as happy-go-lucky drunks who do nothing but swig on pints of Guinness all day in the local pub.
Not only have Americans completely transformed the purpose of the Irish holiday, but they insist on including certain elements that are mistaken for being Irish.
First of all, corned beef was not the typical Irish dish in Ireland. When the immigrants came to America, corned beef was used to replace the ham or lamb–which was too expensive in America–that was typically used in the dish.
Another element–the clover, a four-leaf charm of luck–has been mistaken for the three-leaf shamrock plant. St. Patrick didn’t use a four-leaf clover to teach Christianity; he used the shamrock and its three leaves to explain the concept of the Trinity (father, son, and Holy Spirit). Also, St. Patrick never “drove all the snakes out of Ireland;” Ireland never had snakes in the first place. The snakes symbolized evil–the Druids and Paganism.
The more surprising effect of American commercialization is that it has spurred a change in Ireland–a backwards immigration has been focused on the motherland. Irish-Americans, who have tried their luck in the U.S., are now returning to their homeland, which is prospering. Now, the Americanized customs are emerging in Ireland. Like a deadly disease, the commercialized version of St. Patrick’s Day has infected the Irish tourist boards to the point that they now put on a three-day event in Dublin to lure tourists to the country during the month of March.
And we wonder why other countries hate us! I can’t imagine why.
Erin Joyce is a senior majoring in communication.