Monday, March 17, 2008


I've noticed that just how major a holiday is in the American cultural lexicon is directly proportional to how shameless your stereotypical fat, loud, obnoxious Americans' celebration is. Christmas is, of course, the big one, and you can tell because it's the only holiday we celebrate by illuminating our houses until they're visible from space. Easter is on the other end of the spectrum; I wonder how it worked out that it's okay to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ wearing a red and green snowman sweater that plays "Jingle Bells" and drinking a rum-cream cocktail, but the gaudiest thing you're allowed to have for His resurrection is shredded cellophane. And I also want to know how St. Patrick's Day made it into the pantheon of Holidays It's Okay To Wear A Stupid Sequined Hat on.

It's cool if you're Irish and celebrating because it's your patron saint's feast day, but America, in its way, has dumbed down Ireland's great contributions to civilization to shamrock stickers and singing "Danny Boy" off-key. This might not come off so clearly when I write, but I actually like other cultures, especially in contrast to my own non-descript ethnology, the "melting pot" or "salad bowl" or mishmash of ideas only connected as they fall under the description of "diversity." That being said, I don't understand the Irish-American mythology (or, contrasting, my own Italian-American mythology). First-generation Irish immigrants, I imagine, would carry their culture with them, but we're celebrating today because of the diaspora, the tragedy that Frank McCourt generalizes from even though he's a century or two removed. Once your cultural identity has been co-opted to sell colored marshmallows to kids, you've pretty much assimilated, thanks.

But once your culture's become fodder for facetious race war horror (sample culturally sensitive line: "I'll take it from you, homie, you'll see, cause you know the Leprechaun is the real O.G."), the meaning of the holiday disintegrates. It's Halloween without the witches, or Memorial Day without the flag, or Father's Day. (I exclude Christmas here because, although it's become utterly secular, I don't see people spontaneously giving each other gifts on any other day of the year.) St. Patrick's Day is an excuse for frat boys to drink at ten in the morning, as if frat boys need an excuse to drink at ten in the morning. Culture, that heterogeneous life experience shared among different peoples, may be dying already, but I feel like its this dishonesty that's killing it.