Sunday, March 13, 2011

Why I won't be celebrating St. Patrick's Day

I'm going to go out on a limb here and talk about something completely unrelated to my usual food/fitness talk, because I think it's worth sharing. [Edit: I have to add the note that all I'm trying to do here is to shed light on some blind spots on a history that few people who celebrate Saint Patrick's Day even know about. I think it's important to understand part of the origins of a day your choosing to celebrate]:


The pub crawls, the shamrock stickers, the green food dyed Baileys shots, the "Kiss me I'm Irish" t-shirts... If you lived any part of your teen/adult years anywhere in North America, Ireland, or the British Isles, I can assume that you've all taken part in the St. Patrick's Day celebration madness at one time or another.

However, when I first got to learn about the other side of the Saint Patrick's Day story, I haven't actively sought to take part in the partying anymore. Why? Didn't St. Patrick's Day just "drive the snakes out of Ireland" and bring Christianity to the Emerald Isle? What's wrong with that? Weren't you raised Catholic?

Well, here's the deal, just because I ascribe to a certain spirituality or religion doesn't mean I believe in killing in the name of God (or anyone for that matter). Crusades? Not okay. Fundamentalist suicide bombings? Not so much. To clear the story up, as you can imagine, there aren't really that many "snakes" to drive out of Ireland. Serpents were one of the primary symbols in many pagan religions in Ireland at the time. Essentially, "driving the snakes out" is a nice allegory for driving the Pagans out of Ireland. And no, they weren't shipped off an a boat to somewhere else, they weren't asked to leave, as was the tradition of the time, you can imagine that this actually meant that they were either a) converted or b) killed. It's probably of no surprise to also hear that conversion at the time (again, think Crusades) wasn't exactly a friendly sit-down talk.

In the oral traditions that have been passed along in pre-Christian Ireland recount that St. Patrick was in fact responsible for the deaths of many, many people, Druids, priest, bards, and all of their people. Some histories say that he would go into towns with a bunch of his thugs, preach, and wait for someone to call him out because they already had their own culture and beliefs. They would then take that person, nail them shut into a human size-ish crate (essentially a box made up of loose slats so air and water can go through it), and put them under water until they were about to drown, and repeat this over and over, until the person would either die or convert "of his own free will." Of course, he never told anyone to convert, he just gave them the "choice."

Why don't we hear this much? Isn't it obvious? The pre-Christian Irish had no written history, only oral histories. As the Druids and Bards were killed so too were the stories. If you pass down your history through oral tradition, kill the source of the story, and they disappear.

Sure, Saint Patrick's Day has become a more general celebration of Ireland and that's a lot more worthwhile to me! I'm all for the Celtic music, the storytelling, etc. That is fantastic, but the origins of the story don't change. So while many might be out there partying, I hope they can recognize from whom and where the tales are drawn. In this case, they come from a murderer and a thug.

Instead, I'll choose to celebrate Ireland in a less controversial way. I made a somewhat green and orange Irish flag looking dinner. I originally got the idea from Rawxy's Wilted Kale with Pea Pesto, and adapted to make it more salad-y. The result:

Layer 1: massaged kale salad (kale, broccoli, lemon, EV olive oil, sea salt)
Layer 2: zucchini pasta w/ pesto (avocado, basil, water, garlic nutritional yeast, sea salt)
Layer 3: sundried tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, pumpkin seeds, & carrots

3 comments:

  1. Wow. I was never a fan of St. Patty's Day before, now I have another excuse not to celebrate it!

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  2. ST Patty's? If you call it that you shouldn't be allowed to celebrate it. Get off your high horse bioth of you. It's a day to celebrate a cuture not to pick holes in the history. Scratch the surface of any culture and their history will have a brutal edge. If you want to preach against the Catholic church be my guest but hands off a day that is supposed to be a positive celebration of a culture with a hard history

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  3. Why it is so threatening to point out holes or blind spots in our histories? If people truly wish to know anything about the past, we need to look at a whole picture of what happened, not just the parts that are convenient to the victors. That's all I was hoping to do. Yes, of course we can find brutal violence in most cultures' histories, but just because "everyone does it" does not justify an act for anyone. I also wasn't aware that stating an opinion and stating facts on some issues was disallowed, neither do I understand how I ever even implied anything against the Catholic Church.

    On a different note, I of course believe we should positively celebrate every culture with the highest degree of respect and fun. I find it unfortunate that here in North America at least, St. Patrick's Day has often become an excuse for many people (who know NOTHING about Irish culture) to drink themselves sick. I've always loved the day's celebrations that have focused on traditional music and dance, food, stories, and reasonable drinking, etc. instead. Those things I think are what really celebrates and do honour to a wonderful culture.

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