When I was a child, St. Patrick’s Day meant wearing green and eating corned beef and cabbage, a meal I hated intensely and survived consuming only through a liberal application of mustard. My dad is Irish Catholic, a former New York Port Authority cop (pre-9/11 when no one knew what that was) and at one time, long before he had children, he even had red hair. His only flaw in the stereotype is this – he is a terrible drinker. Not that he has a drinking problem, but that he is actually terrible at drinking. Considering his heritage, occupation, and choice of spouse, one would assume the man would be an alcoholic. However, excluding one memorable incident concerning a neighbor with homemade grappa, I have never seen my father drunk. I have never seen my father order more than one cocktail with dinner (either a martini or a White Russian), and he buys one case of beer per summer (Coors Light). There was no alcohol served at family gathering save what other’s brought.
When I was in college, St. Patrick’s Day meant drinking green beer. The less I remember of that, the better. Remember kids, it doesn’t taste any better coming up than it did going down.
Now that I am a parent, St. Patrick’s Day means making sure the kid’s wear green to school and teaching them that a little wee man with a red beard and a green top hat sneaks around their home and school and wrecks havoc when they aren’t looking. I didn’t know it would be so much fun to mess with them, but pouring white milk into a glass that is pre-laced with a few drops of green food coloring is the most fun I’ve had with clothes on in a long time. I even went into their rooms and dropped a few fake coins along with one teeny tiny green hat. Why? Because apparently, teaching children that invisible, mythical creatures can sneak into their homes silently and stealthy without even their parents knowing is a good idea! Stranger danger be damned.
Think about it – Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy are all guilty of a little breaking and entering. Their entire existence is predicated on the fact that they are never seen. Yet we teach kids that ghosts are make-believe! Go figure. Dead people coming back from the grave to give a final wave is wrong (except if you are Christian because we just call him Jesus), but a little imp with wings coming to take your teeth and leave you money is right. What the hell does the fairy do with all the teeth anyway? Isn’t that a bit morbid? Can she be a he? Would that make him the Fairy Tooth Person?
The Easter Bunny is just as bad. Am I the only one who finds the little chocolate candies he leaves behind suspicious? Am I to believe that the Easter Bunny is made of chocolate and is simply pooping out candy? Or is he made of sugar and that’s why you get jelly beans? Plus, at least the fat man and the fairy have hands. What does the bunny use to carry things? I can’t imagine those short stubby little front legs are good for much hard labor. Who does all of the work packaging the candy? Santa has elves to make the toys and wrap them. I imagine the Tooth Fairy can manage on her own, one sack for the cash, another for the teeth. But the bunny, it’s a mystery.
Leprechauns are just an odd byproduct of St. Patrick’s Day. I guess they are just the muscle. A good overlord needs lots of henchmen if he is going to constantly chase the big payoff – or in his case, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Probably not a bad gig if you can get it – you get to hang out in mostly tropical locations, staying nice and dry from the rain until just that exact moment when the sun comes out. If you don’t get the gold, at least you can work on your tan.
Yes, I know all of these traditions come from the bastardization of ancient religions and rituals. And I know that in a very few precious years, my children will not believe a word of them, yet will still expect the toys, candy, and money. I mock in good fun because I know one day, I’ll have gone round the circle and will be left with either forcing my kids to eat nasty Irish food (that no good Irishman actually enjoys) or downing some green beer. Shudder.