This post will be short, because I imagine many of our readers will be celebrating today, be they of Irish descent or not. It’s hard to say much about Saint Patrick that hasn’t already been said: he drove the snakes out of Ireland, he converted the Irish from their Pagan ways to Christianity (Catholicism specifically), he used the three leaf clover to illustrate the Christian Trinity, and today, St. Patrick’s Day, commemorates the day he died.
Plus, wearing green is a good idea, unless you’re into being pinched. And that can get touchy, especially at your local pub/bar/watering-hole, which is where many of us will find ourselves.
One of the topics in comparative mythology is the argument between universalism and diffusion/dispersion. St. Patty’s Day makes a great argument for the latter, as people of multiple racial and cultural backgrounds have adopted this traditionally Irish festival. Wherever the Irish went, so did this holiday, which started as an exception to Lenten restrictions regarding diet and alcohol.
How far has the luck of the Irish spread?
Into low Earth orbit:
In 2011, Irish-American astronaut Catherine Coleman talked some of her friends from the Grammy award winning band the Chieftains into loaning her some instruments. Taking a hundred year old flute, and a tin whistle from one of band’s founding members, she celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by playing an Irish melody aboard the International Space Station (a recording of which can be found on the Chieftain’s track, “The Chieftains in Orbit”, from the album Voices of Ages).
Her zero-g performance can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVgagcW5adw
Colonel Coleman also played with Jethro Tull from space, helping to celebrate their 50th anniversary. In addition, she plays in a band with fellow astronaut, Canadian Chris Hadfield.
In 2013, Hadfield celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in space by taking orbital pictures of Ireland. And yes, not only was he wearing green, but he enacted the most St. Patty’s Day ritual of them all:
He sang Danny Boy. Danny Boy, in space.
And maybe, just maybe, someday, our descendants will be singing Danny Boy on Mars.
And who knows? Maybe the good Saint will march out unto the stars.
Until then, cheers, and have a safe and happy Saint Patrick’s Day.