I see the bickering continues over what the Yanks are calling Ireland’s annual festival of twee Irishness that we copied from none other than the Yanks themselves. They sometimes call it St. Patty’s Day. How awful! How ghastly! Every man and his madra knows that the acceptable forms are St. Patrick’s Day, St. Paddy’s Day, or simply Paddy’s Day (P-Day if you’re really cool). Besides these anglophonic forms, all good gaeilgeoirs know that the most appropriate title is Lá Feile Padraig.
Nevertheless, some historians will complicate the matter further and argue that Patrick was never Patrick, but actually Patricius. After all, he was born to a Roman-British family. Even the least committed republicans tend to gloss over the fact that Ireland’s patron saint and rock-star national icon was not even Irish, most likely raised in Wales. Really, whatever we call the whole shindig seems less important than asking why we have a festival dedicated in name to a possible fraud. What did Patrick actually do for Ireland? Did he do any more than Brigid or Columbanus to take the title of patron saint? All Patrick truly brought to this island is patriarchy and that’s a bunch of bollocks, literally and figuratively.
All of these things led me to wonder if Patrick even drove away the snakes, as the legend goes. Making a small amount of research into that topic, it’s clear that Ireland never had snakes up to the time of St. Patrick. At the very least, there was no evidence of the existence of snakes. That said, I have recently developed my own theory on this subject. You see, I started to think about this snake story of St. Patrick and a particular line of questioning emerged. What would be the point of Patrick claiming he drove away all the snakes? Who gains anything from that story? Well, it’s simple. Patrick was, himself, a giant snake masquerading as a person.
Claiming to have driven all of the snakes off the island is a cunning diversionary tactic, worthy of a true snake. Logically, how could anyone accuse you of being a snake if you are responsible for getting rid of all the snakes? It’s especially clever if there never were any snakes on this island before Patrick got here. “You don’t look like the rest of us” someone might say to Patrick. “Don’t mind that, I’m Welsssh” Patrick might reply, checking that his tail was not protruding from underneath his robes. And the person would probably accept Patrick’s explanation as enough reason for a man to have scaly skin and two slits in place of a nose. These were simpler times, you understand. Even now, look at how we celebrate St. Patrick with parades. In an unconscious way, this snake-like procession that weaves its way through the main streets of our cities, towns and villages. Are these genuine Irish celebrations? Not at all, annual parades started in America and Ireland only got into it afterwards. Classic snaky behaviour to attract wealthy tourists and squeeze some more money out of them, all in the name of “genuine, authentic experience”.
Am I disappointed by St. Patrick being an actual, real-life, giant man-snake? Not at all. In fact, it makes more sense to me that Ireland would base a day of celebrating national identity on a cultural icon who was actually a giant snake. If there were no other snakes in Patrick’s time, this place is absolutely crawling with snakes nowadays. Patrick laid down the template for success in this country all those centuries ago: if you want to get anywhere in Ireland, you have to be a massive snake. You name it – politics, government, business, finance, consultancy, property development, communications, media and broadcasting, and more besides – it’s wall to wall snakes from the boardroom down to the young snakes crawling over you on their way to the top.
So this year, instead of arguing with the Yanks calling it St. Patty’s Day, I urge you to try something different. Let’s start calling it Snake Paddy’s Day. Send any confused people my way and I will gladly explain:
“We call it Snake Paddy’s Day, in honour of our patron snake Patrick, who all of these snakes around us look up to with their narrow snaky eyes and long hissing tongues. Snake Paddy did not rid this island of snakes. Snake Paddy was the first of many snakes since and many more to come. (Is it any wonder we lose the run of ourselves on the drink?) Nothing but snakes around here! All thanks to Snake Paddy…”