the United States, Giftmas is now a quiet occasion to bribe love and affection from family and friends. And
similar could be said of St. Patrick's Day.
Though typically associated with drinking, St. Patrick's Day was originally a solemn religious affair. Marked as a holy day of obligation, taverns would be closed to respect the occasion honoring the death of Patrick. Of course, this didn't mean that drinking wouldn't occur in the home. Liquor had long ago been discovered as a cure for riastrad. Loosely translated as "warp spasm",riastrad is what we would nowadays call ADD. The desire to have the warp spastic calm led to the common practice of alcohol being present on St. Patrick's Day. Children who grew up in the tradition associated alcohol so much with the day that it became commonplace to imbibe a bit of the craythurcome March 17th. Over time the real reason for liquor's presence disappeared as generations grew up drinking without thinking about it. As such the catatonic consequences of consuming vast quantities of booze is considered a negative outcome rather than the intention.
Despite losing the reason behind the drinking, at least the consumption remains as part of a part of tradition. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for blue. Yes, once upon time the traditional color worn on St. Patrick's Day was not green. The sovereignty of Ireland, Flaitheas Eireann, used to be represented by a woman clad in blue. However, in the 17th century a case of color blindness led to a transition from blue to green. For a long time the Irish coat of arms displayed the menacing golden harp against an azure background. But in 1642 an exiled soldier by the name of Eoghan Ruadh O'Neill, returned to Ireland to fight in the Irish Confederate Wars. The ship he arrived on flew a flag featuring the harp only now it stood out against a green background. Reasons for this transition are sketchy at best, and most historians prefer not to accuse a folk hero of what might have been color blindness, but the fact remains that from then on out the green flag became an Irish symbol (e.g. it was carried by the Irish Brigade fighting for the Union Army during the American Civil War and St. Patrick's Battalion fighting with the Mexican Army during the Mexican-American War). The point here is that identity is colloquial not necessarily cultural. To this day the Irish government still uses blue for a background, though the national flag itself has no blue. For the average person the use of green in relation to the Irish is so common it becomes a tautology: the Irish are green; and one wonders what purpose is really served demonstrating
that a St. Patrick's Blue even exists?
The meaning of things is expressed through its symbols. However, the way in which those symbols are interpreted can change, rather easily and without much explanation, over time. Blue used to be a mark of Irish cultural identity, but now green is the predominant hue. It just goes to show that a holiday is more about what it is than what it was.
Nowadays St. Patrick's is, for many, just another excuse to get wasted. The closest semblance it has to its previous religious aspect is the shamanistic state of delirium most people drink themselves into. Yet, though few ever stop to think what the occasion might mean, outside of a reason to get pissed, maybe this year someone might stop before a predictable pint of Guinness and/or shot of Jameson to consider: St. Patrick's Day transmuted over time from the somber remembrance of a departed patron saint to an annual celebration of all that makes the Irish Irish, which itself has even faded into the background as March 17th becomes a time for friends to gather and enjoy each other's company during a time some set aside as one more of few chances during the year to revel in life's brighter side. So, perhaps, it's not such a bad thing when holidays change their meaning.