Saturday, March 17, 2007

St. Patrick's Day

March 17 is more often a day I remember because it was my paternal grandmother's birthday than because of St. Patrick's Day. I remember her fondly on this day and regret that I was in Japan during the later years of her life. I guess that it's hard to get into the holiday itself when it frequently involves alcohol consumption and you don't drink alcohol.

St. Patrick's Day is one of those secular holidays (yes, I know it was originally a religious holiday) that Japan hasn't absorbed for commercial purposes yet. Some Irish and British pubs in Tokyo have parties at this time but most Japanese people know little about it.

Interestingly though, the idea that 4-leaf clovers are lucky is something at least a few of my students believe in. This is curious because the number 4 is considered unlucky in Japan because it can be pronounced as "shi" which also means death. This is similar to the situation in western countries where many hotels do not have 13th floors. In Japan, there is often no room 4, seat 4, parking space 4, etc. So, one must wonder how 4-leaf clovers came to be considered lucky where there is almost no Irish cultural influence to make clovers a part of the cultural mythos.

To all those who celebrate this day, Happy St. Patrick's Day. And, Happy Birthday, Grandma. I miss you.

5 comments:

Helen said...

I've never been a big fan of St. Patrick's day either. Too much Scottish blood and no Irish I guess.

I know what you mean about how about a day that's famous for one thing has another meaning to you. My mother's birthday was September 11......

Shari said...

I'm not sure about my pedigree but I think I'm a mix of Scotch, Irish, and German. I figure it's whatever combination gives you red hair, blue eyes, and a tendencey to become a lobster in the least bit of sun exposrue.

Nanny Haha said...

St. Patrick's Day doesn't involve a 4-leaf clover. It's a 3-leafed clover called a Shamrock. The myth of a 4-leaf clover bringing good luck is something entirely unrelated to St. Patrick's Day. And St. Patrick's Day IS a religious holiday. There are many, many Irish (and other Catholics) who treat this feast day with reverence. Just because some people choose to use it as an excuse to drink green beer, this does not retract from the auspicious meaning it holds for many others. I would say St. Valentine's Day is more secularized than St. Patrick's Day. Which is kind of sad.

BTW, I love, love, your blog. I have been reading it for about 1 month now. I think I'm kind of addicted. You are a really good writer and I'm kind of a Japan-o-phile, so it's great for me. I'm going to Japan in July.

Shari said...

Thanks for your kind words and for the information Nanny! Also, thanks for including your blog link. I'm going to have a read!

Nanny Haha said...

There isn't much to read on my blog, at it is mainly an exhibition of my photos since I recently took up photography as a hobby. At present, I am VERY much an amateur so my photos aren't exactly profound right now. But I welcome visitors, absolutely! :)