I'm not a huge fan of some St Patrick's Day traditions. Do not offer me a green beer as I'm as likely to throw it in your face as drink it. Don't try and tell me that boiling is a reasonable way to cook meat. And for fuck's sake, hold your booze or don't grab it in the first place. Despite my distaste for a certain extent of affection for the holiday. My love of whiskey and stout are a matter of public record. I appreciate hearing Irish music on the radio, whether it be old-school folk, Thin Lizzy, the Pogues, the Cranberries, or the Dropkick Murphys, who here in Boston are practically an institution.
There are, of course, plenty of people who'd wish to be rid of the holiday, and aside from a general dislike of drunken and rowdy behavior, there tend to be two main arguments against it. One came from my years at a Catholic School, where they told us that St Patrick would have hated St. Patrick's Day. Which is true. St. Patrick's attitude toward the Irish (he was from Roman Britain) was very similar to current Western attitudes towards Africa. The Irish, to him, were a bestial lot, save for those who had already converted. He was appalled by the drinking and revelry and the matriarchal Druidic spiritualism. Getting up at 8 to go to the pub and not coming back home until the night in his his name is the sort of thing that would really piss him off.
My response to that, you may not be surprised to hear, is fuck that guy
Which brings me around to the other criticism, which is that St. Pat's is a celebration of the banishment of paganism from Ireland. Indeed, that is what the whole "chasing out the snakes" story was a metaphor for. Which is true, when you're talking about the holy day of obligation celebrated in Ireland. From where I'm sitting on this side of the Atlantic, the timeline reads a bit different. The ministry of St Patrick was the first wave of social and religious engineering in Ireland coming out of Britain. The second began in the 17th century, only this time with more plunder and exploitation, and was eventually a significant cause of emigration to America. I've often found it kind of cool that the Irish wound up being a defining feature of Boston, which was founded by the witch-crazed American counterparts of the Puritans who helped drive them out in the first place.
Here in Boston, St Patrick's Day is also known as Evacuation Day, the day in 1776 that the British were repelled from Boston, thanks to freshly installed cannons on Dorchester Heights. Here in America, the British Invasion was turned back, and instead of celebrating the triumph of Catholicism over paganism, we celebrate the Irish. I won't pretend that all or even any Americans who celebrate St Patrick's Day share my narrative of the day, or are even aware of the history or the fact that they are dancing on the grave of the holiday's namesake as they celebrate it. But as a Bostonian Irish-American, a former Christmas and Easter Catholic turned atheist (after a couple years of fairly rigorous theological scholarship at the previously mentioned Catholic school) who occasionally identifies as a Solstice and Equinox witch, celebrating St. Paddy's is a yearly reminder that here in America, St Patrick lost.
You don't need to go out and puke on a stranger to appreciate the victory of merriment over guilt. If that's not your scene, you can do what I'm doing right now. Pour yourself a glass of whiskey (or any Irish libation of your choosing) and read Grace, by James Joyce. Happy St Patrick's Day, motherfuckers.