I’m a bit ambivalent about St. Patrick’s Day. I have nothing against it. But I don’t whole-heartedly and excitedly embrace it, either. I figure this is mostly because, as far as I know, I have not one drop of Irish in me. Other than by relation to my husband, who has enough Irish in him to enjoy a glass of Jameson’s with his annual plate of corned beef and cabbage. I’m quite sure that if I was Irish, I’d be all in and I’d celebrate this festive day full throttle. After all, I’m still waiting for someone to create Swiss-Scottish-English-and-whatever-else day – or, perhaps, let’s just make it Melting Pot Day, so the rest of us who are made up of a veritable cornucopia of cultural backgrounds can all have a “celebrate my heritage” day.
I appreciate the festive nature of those who do make this day special. I join along to a certain extent, by donning one of my only green blouses for the day, and by allowing my kitchen to smell like cooked cabbage. But otherwise, I consider this day of celebration to be just that – a fun day for those who want to make it fun, whether they are Irish or not. It is not a holiday. It is, like many others, an Excuse Day. It is one of those days of the year, like Halloween, Valentines Day, and Mother’s Day, where we have the “excuse” to have some fun, relax a bit more, dress funny, drink or eat more than usual, or profess our true love as if it is any more important on that special day than any other. It is an excuse for us Real Women to kick into high gear with our creativity. It is also an excuse for retail establishments to make more income off of cards, flowers, gifts and candy. Or, in the case especially of St. Patty’s day, for the liquor stores and bars to raise their profit margins.
Although they aren’t truly “holidays”, I do think there is tremendous value in these celebratory days, no matter to what extent we each get into celebrating them. People seem to treat each other a bit kinder for 24 hours.We smile and accept each other no matter how we are dressed, or how we are acting. Our focus shifts, even if just briefly, from daily challenges like dreary weather, stress and worries, to things like shamrocks, hearts, flowers, and special dinners.
Sometimes, life events can happen during these days that can change how we feel about them. Natural disasters, crimes, illness and personal hardships can happen no matter what the calendar says, and can dare to mess with our fun. Our automatic reaction when things go bad on an Excuse Day is to withdraw from the festivities and happiness. We begin to resent those who are still having fun and partying, or may even resent the day itself. All too easily we can let Celebratory Day become Sad Day, Sour Day, or Angry Day. And we risk losing the boost we so desperately need.
One year ago, my dad passed away. On St. Patrick’s Day. Now forever to me, this won’t be just St. Patrick’s Day. It is also unfortunately an anniversary of the day this earth lost an amazing man. And as much as I’m tempted to sit home and wallow in sorrow, and be angry at every green-beer drinking, leprechaun-looking happy person, I realize that is not the right thing to do. Even though my Dad was mostly Scottish, with no Irish blood in him either, he really liked this day. He was always happy to have a reason to party, to have fun, to get together with friends, to celebrate an Excuse Day. Would he want me crying and moping around the house? No way. Would he want me to do something like put on a silly sparkly hat, laugh a lot, pour a good drink and make a special meal for dinner? You bet he would.
Similarly, many years ago, my mom passed away two weeks before Christmas. Devastating? Yes, completely. But losing her then didn’t mean I should spend every future Christmas draped in black with a big bucket of bah-humbug. Quite the opposite. My mom embraced Christmas on a turbo-sized level. She decorated every inch of the house, she reveled in the cookie making, the gift-giving, every bit of the holiday. One of the very last things I did with mom was put together an Advent wreath. I remember her telling me that I needed to do most of the work on it because it would be up to me from now on to continue the tradition. At the time, I didn’t want to believe her. I didn’t want to accept that cancer was winning. I wanted to believe she’s be around for a whole lot more advent wreaths. But she wasn’t. And I know that what she really meant was “don’t you dare give up the fun and the celebration.” So I haven’t. I have continued to carry on her tradition of embracing that holiday on a turbo-sized level. I love it, and I think of her in everything I do, hoping she is having fun watching me.
And today, I had a very similar feeling as I did my best to pretend that I’m just a little bit Irish. As I scooped up the corned beef and poured myself a drink, I felt my Dad grinning from ear to ear. Sure, when bad things happen on happy days, we need to take time to mourn, or repair, or gain strength. But then we need to allow ourselves the chance to find joy in silliness again, take comfort in the friendliness and smiles of others, and use those Excuse Days for a bit of an escape from every day normalcy.
“The more you celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” – Oprah Winfrey