I know that I already wrote a St. Patrick's Day post on the day itself (and if you read that post, you already know that the day is properly referred to from now on as SpongeBob Day), but after rereading this book, The Story of St. Patrick's Day by Patricia A. Pingry, for the first time in a couple years last week, I just couldn't resist sharing it with you all:
We got this book cheap somewhere maybe 4 years ago after St. Patrick's Day, figuring it would be a good idea to have around, since my side of the family is predominantly of Irish heritage, and my son was born pretty close to St. Patrick's Day.
The book starts simply enough, before tipping its hand a couple pages in:
Before you question the composition of this image, you must remember that this all took place before the Irish fell under the yoke of English tyranny, before they were manipulated into slavish subsistence farming and dangerous over-reliance on a single crop, when they had much more time in the middle of the day to sit about in a field in mixed company, picking clovers and being amused by the ramblings of a curious foreigner with a tragically compulsive hair-cutting obsession and the good luck of living in an age with a definite scarcity of mirrors.
So this is probably at least 93% accurate as to how it went down.
Of course, it wouldn't be a book about St. Patrick without mentioning the snakes:
What they seem to be saying here is that St. Patrick was a Parselmouth, and what's more than that, he was apparently a very irritating one. I believe in this picture, he's offering to hand out religious pamphlets, asking if they've heard "all the many great stories in the Bible featuring the courage and ingenuity of Our Serpent Friends..."
Note that most of the snakes have given up moving laterally along the ground and are resigned to flinging themselves off a cliff. Pretty much the same reaction I have whenever Jehovah's Witnesses come a'calling.*
And finally, we have to deign to acknowledge those persistent pagan traditions that weren't co-opted for expediency in winning converts:
"And now, kids, ha ha, for a break from all that Real, Fact-Based Learning, here's a fun little story about how some silly people believe that tales of beings with magical powers who had wild, implausible, and unprovable exploits long ago are immutable fact, and that these beings continue to invisibly rule the world of the present day, watching over us all with stern disapproval.
"Remember: Though they may provide useful lessons and morals for all people, such stories are MAKE-BELIEVE and must always be clearly classified as such!"
I would love to see the lady's face on the page where one of the kids asks a question innocently making reference to "that story where Jesus cursed some guy who tried to take his pot of gold or whatever?"
So, to sum up: Guy shaking a stick to singlehandedly drive every single snake off an island the size of South Carolina: Fact. Leprechauns: Make-believe.
* Our downstairs neighbor let them in the building one time, and now I'm pretty sure they legally have a permanent invitation to ring the buzzer, per God's Law of Awkward Guilt.**
** Case number God v. Who The F*** Do You Think You Are?