17 March 2016

St. Patrick in USA, Erin Go Bragh? (may Eire live forever)

creative commons search result at flickr.com, "St. Patricks parade"
 Looking around the hallway of the nearby high school between classes as students stream past, one can see many teens and a few staff and faculty with some token of green clothing or accessory. How unusual that this saint's day should be a public event with some foregrounding of ethnic membership. Every other day of the year has one or more saints associated with it, some of which carry resonance to specific ethnic groups, but yet the greeting card industry, candy manufacturers, news media, t-shirt makers, and so on do not get equally exercised about the spectacle. What seems particularly interesting from an anthropological viewpoint is the ambivalence of ethnicity: some might express pride in family history that has some direct or indirect link to the island of Ireland, whether the polity of north or south. Others may be less ready to emphasize DNA and be glad to count themselves as "Irish for a day" and join in the general fun of the day as a sort of culturally, not ethnicly, member who belongs with the rest. But considering the vast ebb and flood of populations displaced from home grounds, it is likely that many more have ancestors who had roots in Ireland somewhere along the way. Still, it does seem odd that this day offers a low bar to ethnic membership and other days do not have a similar expression; could there ever be in USA anything that takes up similar space in the public discourse of commercial and popular culture - such as Myanmar Day, or France Day, or Mexico Day?
For a worldwide view of proceedings and changes in meanings, see the final paragraph of the blog article for the American Anthropological Association, http://blog.americananthro.org/2016/03/17/sham-and-the-rock-on-17th-march-st-patricks-day/

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