March 19, 2007

St. Groundskeeper Willie Day

What a strange occasion is St. Patrick’s Day. Everybody loves the Irish and wants to be Irish for one day a year. Being Irish obviously means having a stinkin’ good time, listening to music, and toasting absent friends. In the US and Canada the night is always a money-maker for pipe bands and pipers, who are employed across the continent to provide Celtic music in a loud way.

Scotland just doesn’t seem to have the same thing. St. Andrew’s Day both in and outside of Scotland is celebrated mainly by the snobby country dancing set and St. Andrew’s “Societies” that cater to the upper-crust. The Toronto St. Andrew’s Society requires people buying tickets to their annual hoity-toity dance at the swishy Royal York hotel to take country dancing lessons before they can attend. What fun.

Burns Night is good, and any country that produced a poet that speaks to the world at large can’t be bad. Burns celebrated the common man and wine, women and song, so one would think that the night would be every bit as raucous as St. Patrick’s, but, sadly, it’s not so. It’s never caught on in a big way. (Picture Scots celebrating “Mark Twain Day” or “Robert Frost Night” to get the gist of what I mean.)

There’s the recently conjured “Tartan Day,” but it’s contrived. It just doesn’t have the same zippity-zing as being Irish for a day. Most people like tartan cloth – nice colours and all that, and every year at least one fashion pundit announces that “tartan is in” this spring/fall/winter. But I just don’t know how many people want to pretend that they’re Scottish.

Then again, every non-Scot seems to like to have a try at putting on a Scottish accent. But usually it’s in an angry, sweary brogue. TV commercials have always been rife with uppity Scotsmen going nuts over a spilled pint or wasting money. Groundskeeper Willie is a caricature of the stereotypical Scot in the eyes of North Americans. And who wants to be that, even for a day?




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