This will be in part an editorial and in part kind of a social commentary.
After our recent weather, you don’t need to be told that spring, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, has arrived. And we have a very special South Boston holiday weekend at hand. However you spend it (even watching a half-amputated parade on Sunday afternoon), St. Patrick’s Day will be a celebration.
Last winter, we set a record for snow; this year, we’ve totaled only about half of our usual snowfall in South Boston. But no matter, because we have the assistance of three saints to get us through the wintry cold, darkness and frozen precipitation.
The three saints, of course, are Nicholas, Valentine and Patrick. Nicholas, whose feast day is Dec. 6 and who has become a Christmas icon, sits on the threshold of winter. He also serves as the patron saint of children, along with countless other worthy causes wherever he has oversight. We don’t “observe” Christmas – we celebrate it, aided and abetted by St. Nick, aka “Santa Claus.”
Valentine, in the dark, deep ides of February – a time sacred to Juno, the Roman Queen of the Gods – reminds us of romantic love. In fact, he is the patron saint of lovers. Over 2,000 years ago, the valentines we now send used to be bits of parchment with names written on them and placed in urns. It was the first known dating service (take that, Hallmark!). What better way than Valentine’s Day to get your mind off the depths of winter? And were you aware that Groundhog Day, our own national sign of spring, was once celebrated on Feb. 14, right along with Valentine’s Day? It still is, in certain parts of Appalachia.
And now we have St. Patrick’s Day – no longer approaching. It’s here today, as you are reading this. And the St. Patrick’s/Evacuation Day Parade will step off at 1 p.m. on Sunday, March 20, which is the first day of spring in this Year of Our Lord 2016. How’s that for tying a knot in Old Man Winter’s tail?
Which brings South Boston Online to the social commentary we mentioned at first: Have you ever noticed that the very best (and most memorable) celebrations are religious in nature? Think about the celebrations connected with our three “winter saints” above. Then, remember that Thanksgiving was a religious feast after the Pilgrims’ first winter in the New World. Ask a German about his or her Corpus Christi plans, or Parisians about their Ascension weekends. Go to a Lunar New Year celebration in Chinatown; attend the dragon parade. Join your Jewish friends for Hanukkah or a Seder supper at Passover. Halloween originated as All Hallows Eve; the so-called Twelfth Day of Christmas falls on Jan. 6, the Epiphany.
Think of your own memorable religious celebrations – weddings, christenings, church parties, and so on. Even at funerals, we have gained enough good sense to take some time to “celebrate” the life of the deceased individual who has passed on and left us behind.
And then there’s the Granddaddy of all religious celebrations – Mardi Gras, Carnivale or whatever you’d like to call it. Mardi Gras has gone beyond celebrations and has turned into a week-long festival. You’ll never forget your first one.
So join the parties. You might become a fan of religious celebrations. They’re certainly a lot of fun.