Saturday, March 17, 2007

Saints preserve us!

St. Patrick wasn't Irish. He was kidnapped by Irish raiders from Roman Britain when he was 16 and forced to herd sheep for six years before he escaped and returned to England. He entered the church and returned to Ireland as a missionary. He died around the year 493.

Legend states that St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland and taught the holy trinity to the masses with a shamrock. There were no snakes in Ireland so the snakes he drove out were probably of the symbolic kind that represented the pagan relgions in Ireland at the time. And there is no real proof that he did anything with the shamrock. But that is the way of history. There is generally more sham than rock about it.

St. Patrick's religious feast day is March 17. It has escalated into a major American celebration of sorts that centers around frat boys painting themselves green, dressing like demented leprechans and drinking green beer until they hurl. You have to love religious holidays.

I don't really celebrate St. Patrick's Day anymore. Although my name is H****, as with St. Patrick I'm not technically Irish. My father was adopted and the name H**** he assumed originally stemmed from Hele, an old English name. Plus corned beef and cabbage gives me gas.

But not being Irish doesn't mean I can't respect the St. Patrick's Day phenomenon. One of my most memorable St. Patrick's Day was spent in New Orleans eight years ago the day before my 41st birthday. New Orleans has a reputation for knowing how to party and St. Patrick's Day is no exception. There is a huge St. Patrick's Day parade there. Since the police force there used to be predominately of Irish descent, much of the parade is made up of police cars and presumebly off duty police officers.

As with most parades in New Orleans, you spend much of your time standing in huge crowds shouting at the people on floats to throw you something. I remember clutching my green beer on Bourbon Street as the Irish Parade Princesses pelted me with green condums and heads of cabbage. Then a very large police officer marching in the parade, stopped, hugged me, kissed me on the cheek and told me I was blessed amongst men. He handed me an Irish wool tie and moved on to his next blessed victim.

I love New Orleans.

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone and remember that Irish phrase I taught you last year: Whale Oil Beef Hooked!

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