Richard Daybell – Novels, stories and short humor
I don’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
I don’t wear green. I don’t drink green beer. And I certainly don’t sing Danny Boy. As a small gesture, I might put a lime wedge in my cocktail, and I might think briefly of the scene in Going my Way where Barry Fitzgerald asks Bing Crosby “Do ye know Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral?” And I will definitely eat corned beef and cabbage. To me, corned beef and cabbage is what St. Patrick’s Day is all about.
My ambivalence toward St. Patrick’s Day probably started in my childhood (doesn’t everything?) If a small sensitive child such as myself forgot to wear green on March 17, all the other cruel little children would pinch him. I suppose it’s better than hitting him upside the head with a shillelagh, but nevertheless it leaves scars.
I have nothing against things Irish. Or against jolly old St. Patrick himself. He was an interesting guy, turning Druids into Christians with a wave of his
shillelagh, hurling blarney stones and sham rocks at unrepentant heathens, and playing his pipe to drive all the snakes out of Ireland.
He was, however, a bit of an enigma. Some believe there were actually two Patricks. That might explain some of the contradictions – a good Patrick and a bad Patrick. The good Patrick worked among the poor, feeding them corned beef and cabbage, encouraging them to be chaste and follow a righteous path. The bad Patrick worked among young women, pinching them if they weren’t wearing green, encouraging them to be unchaste and look at his shillelagh. It was the good Patrick who drove the snakes out of Ireland; the bad Patrick, who when he didn’t get enough praise, stole all the Irish children to feed to the English.
It’s easy to see how all these Irish symbols came to be: shamrocks, corned beef and – once more, then I won’t use the word for another year – shillelaghs.