March 17th is the one day of the year when everybody claims to be Irish. I never understood why this is, seeing as I don’t claim to be Mexican every year on Cinco de Mayo, and other people around the world don’t claim to be American on July 4th.
Once I got to college, I realized exactly why so many people go all out on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s simple—people like to be festive, and St. Patrick’s Day is the perfect excuse to take it to the next level.
For some reason, holidays are celebrated with themes and symbols that have next to nothing to do with the history behind them. For instance, Easter commemorates the day Jesus arose from the grave, but now we just celebrate by taking pictures with a big rabbit at the mall and hiding plastic eggs for kids to find. Christmas too. Instead of celebrating the birth of Jesus, many people (even those who don’t believe in Jesus) celebrate the holiday by listening to Mariah Carey holiday CDs and calendars with the worst chocolate you’ll ever taste in it.
St. Patrick’s Day is the same thing. We often forget St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland. For a while, I thought he just got rid of the snakes and that’s why people loved him so much. Instead of celebrating the patron saint of Ireland, we celebrate with parades, green clothes and a lot of beer.
The oddest symbol of St. Patrick’s is by far the leprechaun. Even the puny little three leafed clovers have more relevance to the Irish. St. Patrick used these clovers, or “shamrocks” to aid in explaining the holy trinity to Irish pagans when he came from Wales to spread Christianity in Ireland. Anyways, leprechauns are the weirdest symbol of any holiday, even weirder than a baby in a diaper shooting arrows at people to make them fall in love. Leprechauns are devious little men who chill at the end of rainbows and are obsessed with gold, and shoes with buckles on them—weird, I know.
Being from Buffalo where there’s a large Irish population, St. Patrick’s Day is a big deal. Just a few days ago, USA TODAY ranked Buffalo the No. 1 place in the United States to celebrate the holiday. I’ve only been to a few of the parades downtown, but it’s definitely a spectacle for the eyes. The streets become packed with thousands of people all wearing green, jumping up and down as floats and fire trucks make their way down the road. If you’re into drunk people peeing behind dumpsters, there’s a lot of that, too. St. Patrick’s Day is great for Buffalo because it’s like one massive Bills tailgate.
To some, St. Patrick’s Day is a reflection upon the history of Ireland and celebrates a very important figure in that history. To most, St. Patrick’s Day is just another excuse to get hammered and wear all the green clothes you’d never think to wear on any other day of the year. Places like Buffalo show just how much people love to celebrate Ireland’s patron saint, who in fact wasn’t even from Ireland.
Christian Gravius is a staff writer for the Bona Venture. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org