Oh man, it’s St. Patrick’s Day. A day dedicated, in theory, to Saint Patrick, one of the more famous Saints, well known for all those good acts he performed in his historical life to varying degrees of success. I would list those acts here, but I do not have the time nor the space! They’re so varied and plentiful, you see.
So, instead, I’ll just focus on the contemporary interpretation of St. Patrick’s Day. An interpretation that can be quickly boiled down to these two elements:
- Everyone self-identifying as somehow Irish
Let’s discuss these more in depth:
In many ways St. Patrick’s Day is the most honest of all the major holidays. Whereas Christmas, Thanksgiving, Independence Day and Arbor Day all like to disguise the fact that they’re about getting drunk with your relatives with pomp, circumstance and decorated foliage, St. Patrick’s Day is very clearly, very plainly and very loudly about getting drunk. Drinking on St. Patrick’s Day is so expected it might as well be required by law.
Everyone self-identifying as Somehow Irish
So the drinking element is simple, sure, but this one is a little more complicated. The thing about both being Irish and having Irish ancestry is that, well, not everyone can be it or have it. It just doesn’t make sense. Ireland is only one small country in Europe and while, yes, they did have quite a large immigrant population in the early days of America — and they fully followed that whole Catholicism edict that babies make Jesus happy –, they also had a lot of famine brought upon, I believe, by potatoes. So you have to imagine that the Irish population in America, while sizable, could not have been so all-encompassing as to give everyone Irish ancestry.
And yet on St. Patrick’s Day everyone is Irish. Doesn’t matter who. From the obvious red-haired guy slamming back Guiness and swearing at the TV in an entirely incomprehensible fashion to the less-obvious foreign exchange student from India who wears thick glasses, slams back curry, and talks incessantly about the flying buttress (because he is an engineering student), everyone can claim some Irish in them.
It’s like some sort of transubstantiation miracle, where blood’s been transformed into Irish blood which is, as I understand it, like regular blood but madder. And no one can really explain why, except to say that it’s St. Patrick’s Day, and if the other holidays can claim magical roots, why not this one? Christmas is all “Look, miracles — there’s snow!” St. Patrick’s Day, on the other hand, is all “Look, miracles — the floor is on a fucking sixty degree angle and my mouth tastes like battery acid; where’s me shillelagh?”
My Secret St. Patrick’s Day Shame
I’m not Irish at all.
I can’t even make some weak claim to the title. I’m British-crossed-with-Canadian-crossed-with-Baptist. A lethal combination if there ever was one, sure, but hardly something relevant to St. Patrick’s Day. Missionary Work, maybe, but not St. Patrick’s Day. So on March 17 every year, I’m one of the posers, singing Irish songs and swaying my Guiness back and forth. I make James Joyce references like I’m a goddamn scholar, but the truth is that I only ever read Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man and skipped some of the end bits with the poetry. But still. I try.
So I think it’s important that, this St. Patrick’s Day, I try and bring a bit of authenticism back to the holiday. To make up for all my years of Fake Irish, I’m going to shine the spotlight on REAL Irish. Or at the very least, fictional Real Irish, which is still sort of real, if you think about it the right way. Because what is fiction if not a mirror to reality? And what is a mirror but a window to an alternate dimension where everything is mostly the same, except they read things backward?
Do you understand what I’m saying? Do you understand that what follows is a list of the Top 10 Fictional Irish Characters of All Time?
Because it is.