ART BY MEGAN LIEN
By EMMA CHANG
“Kiss me, I’m Irish!”
In the midst of a sea of bright green shamrocks and poorly portrayed leprechauns, this is probably one of the most common phrases you will see during the month of March.
Although it is highly likely that anyone who is wearing or saying this phrase is not, in fact, Irish, this certainly does not stop people from saying so for one night a year on Mar. 17, otherwise known as Saint (St.) Patrick’s Day.
An originally Irish holiday, St. Patrick’s Day or Feast of the Saint Patrick commemorates the death of foremost patron Saint Patrick and the diffusion of Christianity in Ireland. After decades of Irish diaspora, the St. Patrick’s Day celebration has spread widely around the world and its cultural influences can even be seen in places as far as Japan.
Despite being nationally recognized and celebrated, St. Patrick’s Day is also one of the most misinterpreted and inaccurately commercialized holidays.
Years and years of fallacious public dramatization from authority figures and celebrities has made St. Patrick’s Day yet another victim of the world’s inability to preserve the true meaning behind holidays and their tendency to transform cultural practices into wrongly portrayed financial opportunities for large corporations, rather than efforts to respect other cultures.
To elaborate, it is no secret that right after Valentine’s Day passes, every shelf in popular stores like Party City, Target, Dollar Tree, Hallmark and many more, is already packed with every green item possible: hats, glasses, cards, home decoration, clothes etc.
While these merchandise companies’ public attempts to publicly embrace this Irish holiday may seem genuine and even admirable, most products feature inaccurate representations of the holiday.
For example, one of the most well-known symbols associated with St. Patrick’s Day is the four leaf clover. This small fauna is considered a national icon for luck, a moral closely linked to the holiday, but this superstition is in fact fictitious, as the more common three-leaf clover or shamrock is the only leaf that actually corresponds to the Irish culture.
Consequently, people begin to confuse the difference between the two and end up purchasing seasonal items that feature the incorrect symbols, which only further encourage the companies’ wrongful efforts to commercialize St. Patrick’s Day.
In addition, another misunderstood aspect of St. Patrick’s Day is the leprechaun. A make-believe character depicted in the Irish culture, the traditional leprechaun was an old mythical fairy that wore a red coat and made shoes often at the end of a rainbow. In contrast to today’s stereotypical leprechaun, that is portrayed as a small red-haired man adorned in a green coat, as a more friendly alternative to its traditional form.
Both of these misbeliefs are the direct result of several years of manufacturing companies creating stereotypes and false symbols in order to promote products that feature their own adaptations of St. Patrick’s Day.
However, what many consumers do not realize is that by purchasing these companies’ products in an attempt to be festive, they are continuing to indirectly support the industry’s inability to properly commemorate this important holiday.
As it seems, cultural insensitivity only remains rife because of the nature of consumer culture and pubic gullibility that continues to drive it. As consumers maintain the demand for such fallacious products, all manufacturing corporations can do is rush to meet them.
Moving forward, all individuals can do to combat this epidemic is to raise awareness for the ignorance that continues to plague our society.