Photo Courtesy of Flickr/Daniel Santiago
Whether you’re Irish, Catholic, both, or even just like the color green, we at The Forum want to wish you a very happy and safe St. Patrick’s Day.
But we won’t wish you the luck of the Irish, as that has some derogatory origins. According to historical sources, it was a term invented by Americans after noting that Irish were doing particularly well during the Gold Rush – and they used it to imply that it was sheer luck, as opposed to brains or skill, that those miners had been successful. Others believe that the phrase isn’t actually about luck but rather about fortune, referring to the series of bad or unfortunate events in Irish history and, sometimes more positively, to the ability of Irish people as a whole to bounce back after those crises. It’s not uncommon for “the luck of the Irish” to be said sadly or sarcastically, with a rueful shake of the head.
Indeed, even the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, in Irish folklore from the early 1600’s, is managed by a “mischievous” leprechaun who might not necessarily have your best interests in mind when you try your luck at cashing in that gold.
Not to be confused with “lucky” four-leafed clovers, the shamrock, with its distinct three leaves, has religious significance, particularly for Irish Catholics, because it was said that Saint Patrick chose the plant as a teaching tool: the three leaves symbolized the Holy Trinity. But maybe that meaning, in and of itself, conveys its own share of luck. Shamrocks and green ribbons have been associated with St. Patrick’s Day since the mid-seventeenth century.
Celebrated in our country since the 18th century, while not a legal holiday, St. Patrick’s Day is certainly a beloved, widely-recognized, and often commercialized one. In addition, it’s one of the deadliest days for drunk driving, probably because of our collective tendency to over-celebrate on nearly every occasion that calls for even mild celebration.
And in New York City, a recent law enforcement initiative (which went into effect just one week ago) sponsored by the Manhattan DA’s office, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, and Mayor Bill de Blasio, makes it less likely that those over-celebrations will lead to arrest. The idea is that police officers will be freed up to arrest for the more egregious offenses, leaving infractions such as public urination and public consumption of alcohol punishable by summonses instead. This is predicted to keep approximately 10,000 New Yorkers from being arrested annually. We are, we admit, a little curious (and concerned) about what percentage of that number would have been for public urination, before this initiative came about.
So, does this give us the “green light” (no pun intended) to go out this week and get a little goofy? (Public urination? Really?) Not so fast. On St. Patrick’s Day, as with New Year’s Eve and SantaCon, alcohol will be banned on the LIRR as well as upstate Metro-North trains. Bar carts at Grand Central and Penn Station will also be closed. It’s not to say that violators of this regulation will be arrested, but they will have the offending substance taken out of their possession. So whatever you do, don’t bring your Jameson Reserve on board, or the MTA might be celebrating on your behalf.
Above all else, please be safe – and consider the safety of others – as you mark this special day. May you find your own pots of gold, whatever they may be.