St. Paddy’s Day

Methinks St. Paddy’s Day celebrations, especially on college campuses in the U.S., have gotten out of hand.

At the University of Illinois, for example, “Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day” was held this past weekend. Buses and trains brought in party-goers from across the state and even from out of state. Besides consuming more alcohol than was reasonably prudent, these revelers tossed objects from balconies, received more than 300 notices to appear in court for drug possession and public urination (among others),  and left behind enough litter to fill a football stadium.

More than 20 were taken to local hospitals on alcohol-related issues. In previous years, some have been injured or even lost their life, again mostly alcohol-related.

Now I love a good party as much as the next Irishman, but really, is all this craziness necessary? When a person can’t remember how he got where he is, who he was with, or what he did, why does he think he had a good time??

Traditionally, March 17 was set aside to honor St. Patrick, who used a three-leafed shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to pagan Irish people and convert them to Christianity.

What once was a mostly Catholic saint’s day, with observers attending church and dining simply on corned beef and cabbage, has become an excuse for drunken celebrations across the land.

That makes me a wee bit sad, for as a culture, the Irish have been known for too long as drinkers. There are Irish drinking jokes, Irish toasts, even Irish quips on T-shirts.

I suspect there’s one reason behind all this — money.

Bars and restaurants are happy to trade food and drink to party-goers for green cash. Communities, strapped in tough economic times, are glad to take tourists’ money in exchange for hosting a colorful parade or dying some river or fountain Kelly green.

But not all Irish are drunks;  some Irish never even touch alcohol.

Really!

And I hate to see what should be a joyous occasion marked by people throwing up in the streets and winding up unconscious (or worse) in some hospital.

Especially when those people are our young.

Perhaps we need to imitate the Irish in the motherland, who celebrate the festive occasion with music, sports competitions, fireworks, films, and other family-friendly events.

And remember, “There are only two kinds of people in the world, the Irish and those who wish they were!”

Laissez les bons temps rouler!!

It’s less than three weeks away now!

Of course, I’m referring to Mardi Gras (AKA Fat Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday).

Last year, I blogged about King Cakes, one of the many traditions surrounding this day of feasting and celebration before the somber 40-day period called Lent. Today, I’m going to talk about the colors of Mardi Gras.

Now you might consider it odd that a person living in Central Illinois, U.S.A., would be so enthralled with a season far removed by distance, but I lived many years along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where Mardi Gras is celebrated, Big Time!

Right after Jan. 6 (Feast of the Epiphany), Carnival Season gets underway. Kings, Queens, and Parade Marshals are announced, individual krewe themes are revealed, and the partying begins.

There are parades featuring decorated floats, live bands, and plenty of beads and doubloons for everybody; there are formal balls (I’m talking tux and ball gown formal!) for invited members and guests; there are more traditions than you can shake a stick at.

Even the colors of Mardi Gras are traditional. Back in 1872, Carnival King Rex selected Purple (symbolizing justice), Green (faith), and Gold (power) as colors for the festivities, and they stuck.

Oddly enough, it was the colors of Mardi Gras that influenced the selection of colors for two of Louisiana’s then-rival universities. According to the SEC Sports Fan Website, the folks from Louisiana State University originally had blue and white as their school colors, but, hoping to celebrate their first football game against Tulane University, they wanted a change.

Some of the guys and their coach went into New Orleans to find colored ribbon to brighten up their gray jerseys. It being just a few months before Mardi Gras season, all they could find were purple and gold cloths (the green had yet to be delivered).

LSU picked up the purple and gold to make rosettes and badges, leaving Tulane to purchase the green when it finally arrived. This they combined with blue to arrive at their school colors.

Curious about my headline? It’s a Cajun expression meaning, “Let the good times roll!”