This 1908 postcard doesn’t specifically mention the observance of St. Patrick’s Day, but it does celebrate the Irish.
Which is what we are doing today, March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day.
Not that St. Patrick’s Day is an Irish holiday. Though a grand ball was celebrated by the Irish elite in Dublin Castle during the 19th century, St. Patrick’s Day is an Irish-American holiday.
If you hate hyphenated Americanism, too bad. If like me, you have roots in early 19th century immigration and grew up in a first or second generation immigrant community, you know about the links–food, religion, holidays–to the old country.
What’s interesting to me is that not all ethnic celebrations have been embraced by the general population. Case in point, two days from now, March 19th, is the much-ignored feast of St. Joseph, a hero in the Italian and Polish immigrant communities.
Though St. Joseph is more firmly grounded in scripture, it is St. Patrick who has captured the imagination of the world. No church hall spaghetti suppers for St. Patrick. No.
For Patrick, we serve beer, enhanced with a wee bit of the green dye.
In fact we add a bit of green to the public waters, like this fountain at an Arizona Park last Sunday.
For one day, we all ignore that St. Patrick was a missionary, a priest, a man who brought the Catholic faith to Ireland. We wear green. We drink green. We celebrate.
I believe St. Patrick’s Day is popular in America for the same reason that another holiday has taken off: Cinco de Mayo.
Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Battle of Puebla, when a smaller Mexican force defeated an invading French army. Yes, this is another hyphenated holiday, a Mexican-American one. And like St. Patrick’s Day, it’s origins are rooted in an immigrant American community. And the reason it’s been embraced by Americans of every stripe?
Like St. Patrick’s Day, it’s the beer!
Do I have it wrong? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and if you’re reading this a bit late, happy St. Joseph’s Day!
Images: the author and Wikimedia Commons