On Saturday morning, as I was walking towards the gym on Park Avenue, I saw waves of young adults (although acting like teenagers or frat boys) wearing green (some just a t-shirt or sweater, some a full leprechaun costume) on a procession towards their favorite Irish watering hole to “celebrate” St. Patricks Day in the only way that they seem to believe to be appropriate, besides a 5th Ave. official parade: drink until you pass out.

This oversimplification is getting out of hand.

Simplistically but efficiently explained in Zeitgeist the movie (watch here), agricultural-astronomical events were usurped by religious (mostly Christian, as I will explain later why) holy-days, which in turn are being usurped by consumer days, and in order to do so, icons and symbols have been used.

Christmas is believed by many people to be a holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus. But Jesus (if at all) would have been born in spring, not winter. Christians decided to take a pagan agricultural celebration, and turn it into “their” celebration. Modern versions of this include such non-sense as the German Christmas tree tradition, Santa Claus, etc. All this symbolized by the colors green (the tree), red and mainly white (snow). The same can be explained for Valentine’s day (appropriating the color red and heart symbol thanks to the greeting card industry), the Astarte fertility celebration and Spring Equinox turned Easter (multicolored and chocolate coated by the food industry), or the harvest pagan festivity and All Saints turned into Halloween (a funky mix of orange, pumpkins and horror).

Why and how did that happen? As Kira explains:

When Christianity sought to stamp out Paganism because it threatened its sovereignty, they took on a lot of their customs in order to make Pagans feel more comfortable converting. The issue was never spirituality, it was power. They wanted as many converts as possible. Constantine saw the benefit of making Christianity the national religion because he saw how their numbers were ever increasing. He saw if he didn’t convert, and didn’t make Christianity acceptable to his people, there would be riots. Riots mean soldiers, and soldiers cost money. Not to mention the amount he would lose in the lives of his people, which meant decrease in tribute and taxes. 

Constantine followed the line many conquerors and kings have taken before him: the Greeks, Macedonians, etc. He saw the importance of holy days and festivals for Paganism, and knew that would lock in new believers to this new national religion. To this day Christians celebrate Pagan holidays, though they choose only to see their religious importance. These holidays have been around for so long, no one wants to change anything, and to do so would even be considered inappropriate, even though it would also be accurate.

But when we take that into the next level (consumerism), we end up with an absurd line of source-result, and even worst: oversimplification.

So, Spring Equinox becomes Astarte, which becomes Easter, which becomes colored chocolate eggs.

As at the end of the day I look at the young men and (mostly, due to their usually lower endurance of alcohol) women on the side walk, wasted, throwing up, or worse, in bed with a stranger, I wonder how easy it is to be manipulated by power and money (which usually go hand in hand) short-sighted interests, by the simple formula: natural significant event turned into religious holiday, turned into consumer holiday, turned into expected (even if irrationally damaging) grupal behavior.

I say:

embrace ancient wisdom if you wish, but fuck ignorant tradition.