Perception is reality, but often both perception and reality are not based on fact. Thomas Edison did not invent the lightbulb and eight glasses of water a day are not necessary for good health. The Big Bang Theory is not funny.
This St. Patrick’s Day there will usher merriment, but also a plentitude of wrong facts. We’ll get to these commonly-believed myths quickly and briefly. We know your email or social media feed is being bombarded by an avalanche of St. Patrick articles from Buzzfeed, The Huffington Post and that annoying cousin who has to share everything with you.
The truth might not be pretty, but as someone with Irish heritage, it’s never an excuse miss out on the day’s merriment (even if they’re fictional).
St. Patrick was Irish
He was actually born in either Wales or Scotland, in the 4th century, from a wealthy family who for some reason never invested in maps or GPS. In those days, the Romans occupied the British Isles. Therefore, St. Patrick was probably a Roman, although no records exist naming him a citizen of the empire. He wrote in Latin, according to the two surviving documents bearing his name, and signed his name Patricius.
Hey, when it Rome can mean have a green beer!
Green is the national color of Ireland
Traditionally, it’s blue, something like a sky blue. It seems green became culturally adopted in the 20th century mainly because of soccer. It’s a bit more complicated, and wearing blue on St. Patrick’s Day probably won’t save you from being pinched.
It’s Paddy and not Patty. Patty is short for “Patricia.” Paddy is short for the Irish male name deriving from the Latin Patricius, which is Patrick as we just saw. In any event, Paddy in many contexts is considered a racial slur. Only the Irish can use the “P” word freely.
Oh, and please no ordering Irish Car Bombs at bars this year, while we’re on the topic of political correctness.
St. Patrick was a Saint
I’m not saying I’ve got TMZ information on St. Patrick’s weekend adventures, but that he was never formally canonized by the Catholic Church. His title simply was woven by folklore. On the topic of folklore, legends state St. Patrick drove out the snakes from Ireland, but since the country still boasts politicians the story is likely a fable. In reality, there were never any snakes in Ireland to drive out in the first place.
St. Patrick’s Day started in Ireland
That’s like saying fajitas started in Mexico, even if they’re popular now in that country. The truth is that the holiday—as we know it—began late in the 18th century in Boston and New York when Irish immigrants marched against American racial prejudices against them. The event gradually evolved into the drunk fest we have today, and then made its way to Ireland.
Sure, March 17 has long been a day of devotion in Ireland, with pubs not even allowed to open. Only in the 1970s did the Irish start taking St. Patrick’s Day as a cultural celebration. And man, those pubs stayed open…
Most Irish are Catholic
Okay, they are, but the reality is that most Irish American are Protestant. The main reason, it appears, is that during colonial times Irish immigrants arrived from Protestant regions of Ireland like Ulster. My father, for example, was a proud Irishman who was raised Lutheran (and later became an atheist, probably to fully celebrate St. Patrick’s Day).
Keep in mind and other than that…
Just so you know, Leprechauns were originally lecherous, drunken elves rebranded by American marketing; and that the luck of the Irish makes no sense at all considering history’s ass kicking of the Irish. But it was Tennessee Williams who said, “Luck is believing you’re lucky.” I’ll leave it at that.
It is sensible to assume that St. Patrick was indeed captured by Irish slaves as a child, spent seven years in brutal bondage (forced to listen to prehistoric U2, perhaps?), converted to Christianity, and then returned home only to go back to Ireland to become a bishop.
Between leprechauns and St. Patrick’s history, however, I think you can find the essence of what is an Irishman: life is fiction, history is harsh— so you might as well believe you’re lucky and make your personal history an enjoyable fiction, full of oppression and liberation. Or should I say Irishperson, as I rail against saying Paddy or ordering Irish Car Bombs?
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