Isn’t that, like, cultural appropriation or something?
Back in the 1800s, St Patrick’s Day was serious business in Australia. It was a day for Irish Catholics to join together for picnics, parades and politics – especially the ones who were still furious about England being in charge of Ireland. There was a lot of bad blood in the colony, which could on occasion spill out into a massive brawl involving 15-20,000 people in Hyde Park (that was 1878).
Over time, the day evolved to be more about declaring loyalty to Australia even if they were still mad at what was happening back home. It was about showing that Irish and Catholic people were committed citizens who were happy to fit in. (The fact they felt they needed to prove this at least once a year might sound familiar if you think about another religious group that’s looked on with suspicion in Australia for “not assimilating” today…)
Things died off after a while – the famous Melbourne parade once led by famous anti-conscription campaigner Archbishop Daniel Mannix was cancelled in 1970 – but in the past couple of decades St Patrick’s Day has become a big thing again, even if it’s not a public holiday. But now, things have changed. It doesn’t seem like you have to be Irish to wear green, have a shamrock painted on your face, cheers a Guinness with your mates and loudly ask where the craic is. Is that…cool?
The short answer is yeeeeeah, it’s probably fine as long as you’re not telling Irish jokes or being offensive, because in Australia at least, it has transformed into a multicultural celebration with Irish trappings. Back in 1997, the organiser of a schoolkids’ parade told the Irish Echo:
“It is nearly 30 years since the Catholic kids last marched on St Patrick’s Day… today’s march is different to those that have gone before. There is no political agenda. Today, the traditional bearers of the Catholic faith, the Kathleens, the Brendans and Eamonns, will be marching alongside a United Nations of names like Tran, Ai-Minh and Siao… all points of the globe will be represented. And for that reason alone, today, St Patrick’s Day is a great day for the Irish, the English, the Vietnamese, the Cambodian and everyone else who cares to come to the party.”
Hmm. Now we have to ask if it’s okay to celebrate St Patrick’s Day if you’re not Catholic. Does anyone know a priest?