For the first time since 1940, St. Patrick's Day and Holy Week are on a collision course. Because of this, the Catholic Bishops have moved the feast day up to March 14th. In the United States, the theory goes that on St. Patrick's Day, everyone is Irish for the day. Think green hair, clothing, pins, beverages, food, rivers, and any tawdry green thing you can imagine. The smell of cabbage, corned beef or ham, carrots and potatoes cooking--and yes, green beer--will soon be wafting through the air. Religion, meet American excess. American excess, meet religion?
Of course typically wherever and whenever secular and faith are interwoven, there is a collision of sorts and there is already a wee bit of a scandal which has emerged with St. Patrick's Day 2008. Many cities have moved the parade up so as not to interfere with the holiest week on the Christian calendar. Other cities, however, have insisted on having the parades on Monday of Holy Week. St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke released a statement suggesting that Catholics should celebrate St. Patrick's Day "at an appropriate time outside of Holy Week" and "observe the holiest days of the year with the appropriate recollection of mind and restraint in activity." From what I have heard and seen myself at previous St. Patty's Day parades, images are drawn to my mind of anything but holy and restrained.
Two of the biggest parades, in New York and in Boston, are going ahead with plans for March 17th and the Church has remained silent on the issue. Chicago lucked out and avoided any controversy at all; they have always dyed their river green and had a parade on the Saturday prior to St. Patrick's Day. Thankfully, this situation will next arise long after I've left my earthly life - in 2160!