Wet blanket alert! This post is probably going to irritate more people than my posts about health care reform, political activism, Obama speaking to school children, or anti-consumerism performance art (scroll down to the video about the "Everything Is OK Guys," it's worth it).
I didn't want to be a drag on anyone's good times, so I've waited until the morning after to write this, but I have a problem with St. Patrick's Day. My mother is part Irish (although she identifies much more strongly with her Danish heritage) and thought it was fun, as many people do, to pinch you if you forgot to wear green. It didn't hurt, of course, but I recall feeling a great deal of anticipatory anxiety about it. What kind of holiday is it that people go around pinching you? Who looks forward to that?
I'm sure that we talked about leprechauns and pots of gold and rainbows, but what stuck was the pinching. As a parent I tried carrying the tradition forward once, when our daughter was young, but even the suggestion of a pinch made her cry. So that was it, the holiday was dead to me.
As I got older, the day came to be associated with beer. Green beer no less. I'm not opposed to beer. In fact I rather enjoy a pint of "liquid bread" from time to time, but on St. Patrick's Day it was about drinking a lot of it and making a fool of yourself. Again, I'm not even particularly opposed to that on occasion, but who needs a special holiday for it? Don't we already have New Year's Eve? Mardi Gras? Birthdays? Friday nights? I tend to spend my St. Patrick's Days doing what I've come to do on all the drinking holidays: stay home watching sitcoms and falling asleep early.
And who is this famed St. Patrick anyway? I wasn't raised Catholic, so I'm probably going to sound terribly sacrilegious here, but isn't he the one who drove the metaphorical snakes out of Ireland? And aren't those snakes symbolic of the pagans and scholars? Some of my best friends are pagans. I very much enjoy celebrating their science-based holidays like the summer solstice, the winter solstice and Halloween. And I'm actually in the business of helping create new scholars, so isn't celebrating this day a refutation of my life's work?
That said, without fail, I've continued to make sure I'm wearing green every March 17th. I've never said much about the day in preschool other than to occasionally tell the story about how the mean people in the olden days used to pinch you if you weren't wearing green. And I am fond of demonstrating the fact that a shamrock is really just 3 green hearts.
This year, the internet revealed to me all the fun other teachers are having with the day, so I decided to test the waters last week by asking the kids to tell me what they know about the day. My idea was that if there seemed to be some bubbling excitement in our ranks, I'd break out a few of the more interesting art projects I've been reading about and see where that took us. I started by asking if anyone could tell us which holiday is coming up. It's a game we play upon the approach of most holidays. We guessed Easter (several times), 4th of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Martin Luther King Junior's birthday, and Valentine's Day. It was only when I started giving hints that Jack came up with St. Patrick's Day. When I asked what they knew about the holiday, most of them only mentioned wearing green, although Katherine did seem to have some information about rainbows and leprechauns.
When we arrived in class yesterday, only about half seem to have consciously chosen to wear green and only Peter was wearing an overtly celebratory shirt, which wasn't surprising given his very Irish surname. Of course, the fact that we scheduled our picture day for yesterday may have caused some parents to steer their kids toward shades that better set off their little cherubs' eyes or contrasted with their hair color.
I'll confess that I did get inspired by my friend Ayn over at Little Illuminations, who got her own new Little World ready just in time for a leprechaun visit, and hid pots (mini-Halloween cauldrons) of gold (pebbles spray-painted gold) in our own Little World and sprinkled some of that shamrock confetti out there, but that was about it.
It was fun, but I did have to talk down a couple of kids who were worried that leprechauns were real and might be sneaking around their own houses. And poor Lachlan, his eyebrows curved into shapes of concern, asked, "Do leprechauns pinch people?"
I just don't like this holiday.