Irish for a day

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It’s that day of the year. If you like alcohol, cabbage and the color green, there’s no better day than St. Patrick’s Day for holiday festivities. With the U.S. Census reporting over 33 million Irish-Americans in 2013, the Irish are not only proud but numerous, adding up to nearly 7 times the population of Ireland.

It’s no surprise then that an originally religious holiday (now representative of Irish Independence) is a day most people in the United States revel in celebrating.According to various 7th century writings, St. Patrick was a missionary who brought Christianity to Ireland two centuries earlier after being taken from Britain to Ireland as a slave.

The now-revered saint used his experience, as well as symbolic items such as the three-leafed Shamrock, to explain concepts like grace and the Holy Trinity.

Being neither religious nor Irish (though it’s speculated, as my biological father remains a mystery), I have often been annoyed by the increase in unnecessarily offensive traffic in downtown Seattle — including intoxicated drivers, and the aggressive pinchers on the lookout for those not sporting a certain hue.

In the last decade, I’ve warmed up to the Leprechaun references, Irish flags, parades and the shouts of “Erin go Bragh” (actually “Irish Éirinn go Brách,” meaning “Ireland forever”). Why? Let me count the ways:

  • The Chicago River turned green for a day. (Seth Oliver-Flickr)
    The Chicago River turned green for a day.
    (Seth Oliver-Flickr)

    (1) The holiday doesn’t require gifts, flowers, inconvenient school and business closings, or forced family gatherings.
    (2) Although rooted in religion, it actually allows—nay, encourages—people to let loose and enjoy the simple things in life. In fact, lent restrictions are lifted every March 17th, which is one reason for the decidedly excessive intake of alcoholic beverages.
    (3) No one shames you for being drunk, single or underdressed. However, you may get pinched.
    (4) You may get pinched.
    (5) It’s celebrated around the world, from the United States to Malaysia to Japan to South Korea to, of course, Ireland.
    (6) The slew of Irish and honorary Irish who go out for drinks are providing a substantial economical favor, with WalletHub predicting Americans to spend about 4.6 billion based on prior facts and figures.
    (7) Irish heritage and history is fascinating.
    (8) Last, but not least, cabbage is delicious when it is properly prepared.