Green Beer Versus Green Tea
by David Trumbull
Editorial Humor, March 2000
Dyeing the river green, as Windy City pols were wont to do when celebrating St. Patrick's Day in Chicago, may not set well with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency these days. In New York, the March 17 holiday has spawned rival parades. Hillary! --as Mrs. Clinton now prefers to be known--chose to snub the traditional parade up Fifth Avenue past St. Patrick's Cathedral in favor of an alternative gay and lesbian Irish heritage parade.
The fight, a few years ago, over the South Boston Irish War Veterans' St. Patrick's Day Parade went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a unanimous decision overruling the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the high court declared that the parade organizers had a Constitutionally protected right to exclude a gay and lesbian organization.
For a Republic with no established religion, we seem to spend a lot of time fussing over the meaning and proper way to celebrate the death of a fifth century Christian missionary.
Only in a place with our history of Protestant Yankee and Roman Catholic Irish rivalry would March 17 be known officially as the anniversary of a an event from the Revolutionary War. On March 17, 1776, the British troops in Boston were evacuated from Boston, never to return. In recognition, March 17 is celebrated in Massachusetts as Evacuation Day. Government workers get a paid holiday and there is much public festivity.
And how do we celebrate our independence from Great Britain? Why, by eating corned beef and cabbage and drinking green beer. Because everyone knows that St. Patrick's Day is the real reason for the celebration. Thus, the Irish get their day, while the Yankees get to pretend that it is really is about something that took place back when they still ran the place.
St. Patrick's Day (or should I say Evacuation Day?) falls on Friday this year. Since most people who work in the dreaded private sector do not have the day off, the traditional South Boston parade will be on Sunday, March 19, St. Joseph's Day. For, you see, while St. Joseph, a major figure in the Gospel narratives is universally venerated as the husband of the Mother of God, we ignore his day in preference to St. Patrick, a merely local saint of five centuries later. (The final irony of course is that Patrick wasn't even Irish. He was a British missionary gone over to Ireland to convert the locals.)
For local pols, the big event is the South Boston breakfast which for years was presided over by Senate President, William M. Bulger. Every Irish Democrat office-seeker in Suffolk County will be there to partake of corned beef and even cornier jokes.
In the mid nineteen-nineties Yankee Republican Governor William F. Weld attended the breakfasts to take a ribbing from the Democrat pols (and, often, give as good as he got). Boston's first Italian-American mayor, Thomas M. Menino will surely be there this year. Yes, everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day in South Boston.
If boiled cabbage, green beer, and amateur renditions of "Wild Colonial Boy" are not your taste, how about tea, cucumber sandwiches and the Royal Victorian Opera Company performing selections from Gilbert and Sullivan?
After a morning appearance at the South Boston breakfast, the Mayor and Mrs. Menino, along with Laura Carlo, News Director and morning announcer from WCRB-FM, will co-chair an afternoon tea at the Four Seasons Hotel. The Tea is a benefit for the Gibson House, the last intact Back Bay row house, and a unique link to Boston's Yankee history. For more information about the Gibson House Tea, call (617) 267-6338. Wearing orange is strictly optional.
[David Trumbull is Chairman of the Cambridge Republican City Committee.]