No, I'm not going to argue why Jews should celebrate Mr. Patrick's Day. He ain't no saint to ME. I like potatoes, and an occasional beer, but those are about the only affection I've got for anything Irish. Instead, I want to respond to the email newsletter of a certain national talk show host, in which he observes "the rise and fall of certain dates on the calendar" and speculates as to why St. Patrick's Day has gained such prominence while once-venerable holidays that still provide all of us with a day off are misunderstood and often ignored (eg--what's the difference between Veteran's Day and Memorial Day??? And which is WHEN??)
This talk show host waxes eloquent about why Patrick got the massively most important ethnic holiday, besting any recognition for the most populous immigrant group, German-Americans, and completely obliterating the Italians' Columbus Day and the Poles' Pulaski Day. He suspects that the fact that celebrants use ample DRINK to celebrate makes the occasion appealing. Though I doubt any Italian on Columbus Day or Pole on Pulaski Day would refuse some liquid lubricant for his revelry.
The host mentions that Cinco de Mayo has risen to its own with the arrival of so many Mexicans, but I say it's still not a REAL holiday. After all, the way you tell the level of acceptance of a holiday is by how many aisles in your local Duane Reade or Rite Aid are overrun by its colors.
(Duane Reade: I'm preparing for a trip to New York, imminently. Report to follow!)
No, the REAL reason why St. Patrick's Day and the wearin' o' the Green is so prevalent is...TIMING.
I'm sure you join me in thinking it queer that immediately after New Year's Day, the stores are overrun with RED. Everything instantly becomes hearts and chocolates and cupids--and, joy to retailers--jewelry and perfume and flowers. The business of America is business, and Valentine's day combines that with monkey business, which I first mistyped as "money business," leaving out the "k." It's irresistible to combine romance with retail. And then--BOOM, it's Feb. 15, and the aisles have shopping carts of half-off chocolate and what's a retailer to do?
Move on. From the red to the green, not, as the host mentioned on his show, as in Al Gore Green, but as in making money, not monkey green, by filling the newly available aisles with the next holiday's wares. And yes, Easter provides a convenient filler, with all those bunnies and pink marshmallow Peeps, but WAIT, that's not till April, and time Marches on first; time for St. Paddy, set to follow St. Valentine as the next excuse to party.
While Easter is cute, there's not enough for adults to buy, after all. Just some chocolate for the kiddies' baskets. That's why Mardi Gras has taken off as another purchasing opportunity, which works out well for those of us who decorate to the hilt for Purim. All those bright masks fit right in with our theme. But both Mardi Gras and Easter have dates that move around, and thus confuse people, so the buying frenzy isn't aimed at a particular, predictable day. No, our nation's economy needs St. Patrick's Day. As I wrote in my Valentine's Day blog--it's almost a patriotic duty to boost the economy.
Admittedly, St. Patrick's Day is not much. Nobody takes off from work, teachers don't even decorate their rooms in green. Well, some of them do, but that's just to fill the bulletin board time lag and satisfy primary teachers' innate urges to redecorate in bright colors. (If you've seen my kitchen, you know I must be a closet preschool teacher. OK, my spouse calls my kitchen "Romper Room.")
My point isn't that St. Patrick's Day is important, but that its prominence is not a slight of our nation's courageous veterans or the prejudicial elevation of one national minority over another, but rather a reflection of where it happened to fall on the calendar. I'm a Jew thru and thru, but for some reason I find myself joining in the spirit of the country and wearing green on March 17. It'll be a green Vayakhel-Pekudai this year. I bet not many people think to say THAT.