Ah, March — the time for squirrels, baby bunnies, green grass and drunken Irishmen.
Yes, St. Patty’s Day is just around the corner — March 17, to be exact. It’s a time when we can look forward to festivities, green necklaces and free food.
It’s also a perfect excuse for college students to down a few extra mugs of beer. But that’s beside the point.
Although now we think of St. Patrick as a jolly, obese, human-sized leprechaun proffering drink and cheer to all, this is a wholly inaccurate assumption.
St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish. He was British.
Gasp! It’s true. The real St. Patrick was actually the son of a rich family who lived in Great Britain in the 400s, which is a real blow to the traditional Irish hatred of the British.
At the age of 16, St. Patrick was kidnapped by Irish raiders and made a slave in Ireland. He escaped and returned to Britain but a few years later was sent back to Ireland as a bishop to spread the Christian faith.
There, he lived a long and happy life, dying after 30 years as a clergy member among the people who had enslaved him in the first place.
Furthermore, St. Patrick used to be portrayed with the color blue, not green. It was only after his death that St. Patrick’s Day colors were changed.
Legend has it that St. Patty used the shamrock and its standard three leaves to teach the Irish about the concept of the Trinity. Subsequently, for St. Patrick’s Day, shamrocks have forever since decorated celebrations in honor of the bishop.
The shamrock has also been assumed by the government of Ireland as one of its official national symbols, having been used as the Ireland state emblem, among other things.
It has been such an important symbol that Ireland even went through a lawsuit with a German company in an attempt to protect Ireland’s exclusive rights to the shamrock.
In 1981, a German company called Meggle (a sketchy name to start with) that specialized in dairy food production created a new trademark-protected logo called the kleeblatt. It was, in essence, a blue shamrock.
Meggle then sued the Irish Export Board for displaying shamrocks at trade shows in Germany. Lawyers on the Irish side fought ardently for the shamrock as an Irish symbol, and not the private insignia of some German dairy company, pulling up various books and articles that had utilized the shamrock symbol before Meggle’s kleeblatt.
In the end, Ireland lost the 1981 case and was prohibited from sending anything with pictures of shamrocks on them to Germany, since such an action would be counted as a trademark infringement.
Ouch. I guess, as the saying goes, “Finders keepers, losers weepers.” It apparently applies to national symbols too.
On a happier note, Ireland did successfully appeal the case in another German court, and after a few years, regained the permission to use the shamrock symbol in Germany.
And, of course, we can’t forget the massive amounts of alcohol consumed on St. Patty’s Day. The Irish government, however, didn’t like the fact that many people went binging on the once-religious holiday, and so established a St. Patrick’s Festival group. The group was designated to make St. Patrick’s Day festivities more “respectable.”
The following is the group’s publicized mission statement: “[To] project, internationally, an accurate image of Ireland as a creative, professional and sophisticated country with wide appeal, as we approach the new millennium.”
“Professional and sophisticated." Very posh.
The group attempted to make St. Patrick’s Day more peaceful by encouraging parades. The Irish responded with the creation of the record-holding, shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Downpatrick, Ireland. The 100-yard route went from one pub directly to another across the street.
Hmm. That didn’t work out so well.
Church officials later tried to speak out on the issue. Friar Vincent Twomey condemned the "mindless alcohol-fuelled revelry,” arguing that "it is time to bring the piety and the fun together."
As many college students would say, what a party pooper.
Kevin Hwang is a junior at Athens High School, takes classes at Ohio University and is a columnist for The Post. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.