Busted Halo
feature: politics & culture
March 15th, 2011

Green With Envy

on St. Patrick's Day


greenwithenvy-new-flashYou have to hand it to the Irish. Every March 17th, they put on the party of the season. Celtic or not, everybody celebrates St. Patrick’s Day.

I am St. Patrick’s biggest fan. I love how popular piety, overpopulated parades and the free-flow of Guinness mix to form a rare and rowdy sense of universal goodwill. I know folks who can’t stand the commercial crush of the Christmas season, who loathe the anti-climactic hype of New Year’s and the synthetic amoré Hallmark cooks up every February 14th. But I’ve never met a soul who harbored any hostility toward the feast day of Patrick, patron saint of shamrock proliferation.

I have to admit though that St. Paddy’s popularity makes me a bit green with envy. You see, at best I’m an honorary Irishman. My last name, not surprisingly, doesn’t exactly inspire memories of the auld sod, and my emigrating ancestors didn’t change it from O’Ruehlmann to avoid 19th century anti-Irish sentiment in Ohio. I’m as German as they come, and as much as I love being Irish one day a year, I’m proud to be Teutonic the other 364.

When I see the love for all things Irish every year in mid-March, I can’t help but wonder: why can’t the non-Germans share our joy? Is it too much to ask to set aside one day a year when people everywhere can embrace their inner Deutsche and accent their beer and pretzels by promoting such endearing German qualities as iron-fisted efficiency and the occasional furious tirade. Why can’t everyone be a little German for a day?

Green Party

I know there’s Oktoberfest every autumn. But there’s really no comparison between a three day beer-bender and the high holy day of the Irish-American. While Oktoberfest occurs in the confines of officially designated Oktoberfest tents, St. Patrick’s Day breaks out with abandon like emerald fever in every corner of town. Most importantly, though, Oktoberfest is a secular celebration without a face. St. Patrick was a real person whose memory grounds the celebration in faith; he offers both a sense of national and religious pride. Oktoberfest doesn’t have a visage at all, but if it did, it would probably be an anthropomorphic beer stein in lederhosen — sort of like a Kool-Aid Man gone horribly wrong. St. Patrick wins that battle in a landslide.

We Germans deserve better.

The establishment of St. Godehard of Hildesheim Day would go a long
way toward breaking down stereotypes. — In fellowship, all would learn that we Germans are so much more than uptight, sauerkraut worshippers. — We are also punctual, for example.

Indeed, what I’m dreaming of transcends a mere tent festival. We need a full-scale religious and cultural holiday that German Catholics can latch onto and their less German counterparts can embrace with equal gusto. That is why I’m proposing (drum roll, please) St. Godehard of Hildesheim Day, to be celebrated each May 4th all across this great land of ours.

It’s a name that just rolls off the tongue, or perhaps doesn’t, but in any case it seems appropriate for a people whose native word for “speed limit” looks like this: Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung. Godehard was born in Bavaria in 960 A.D., and is a patron saint of gout victims and difficult births, which makes him highly marketable to both the extremely young and extremely old.

His ascension to the feast day pantheon would be a most welcome sign among German-American Catholics such as myself, long inured to brutal mispronunciations of our last names. We’ve endured taunts from friends and classmates who only know Germans as the sworn enemies of Indiana Jones. Harsh-speaking men with an unfortunate habit of having their faces melted off. The establishment of St. Godehard of Hildesheim Day would go a long way toward breaking down stereotypes. In fellowship, everyone would learn that we Germans are so much more than uptight, sauerkraut worshippers. We are also punctual, for example.

Achtung Goddy!

On St. Goddy’s Day, the German and non-German alike shall come together to pray for Germany and its descendants. We’ll sing Ein Prosit over a hearty mug of lager after our official St. Goddy’s Day March in beautiful downtown Milwaukee. Instead of buttons proclaiming “Kiss Me I’m Irish!” we’ll have well-starched shirts embroidered proudly with: “Shake My Hand and Politely Introduce Yourself to Me, I’m German!”

This feast day would once and for all solidify Germany’s important place in Church history (or at least our post-Martin Luther reputation). Recently, my ancestral homeland’s contributions have been in the spotlight: this past summer Germany hosted the Vatican’s World Youth Day pilgrimage, and one of its own was elected to the seat of St. Peter just last Spring. In other words, we Krauts are totally hot right now and ready for a grand celebration. Call me crazy, but I just don’t see the downside to encouraging a bunch of Germans to get together and take pride in their homeland?

So as you offer that special prayer today and quaff your dye-green Murphy’s in honor of the Irish people, don’t forget to mark your calendars for May 4th. Let’s extend the spirit of the holidays in a cheerful, meticulously organized Germanic way. On behalf of St. Godehard and Germans everywhere, I say: Danke schön!

Originally published on: Mar 17, 2006

The Author : Greg Ruehlmann
Greg Ruehlmann writes on humorous, religious and cultural topics in publications including McSweeney's Internet Tendency, The Morning News, Busted Halo, National Catholic Reporter and National Lampoon.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • David O’S

    How about celebrating St Boniface’s day (June 5th)…he was to Germany what Patrick was to Ireland…but I think it should be celebrated with Bockwurst & Beer

  • Kat

    Love this clever article!

  • Pauline

    I love your suggestion. As long as the celebration is solemn and proper, promoting good Christian value and tradition.

  • Rich

    Kurt Vonnegut once asked the German novelist Heinrich Boll what the greatest flaw was in the German character. He said, “Obedience.” I like this article and graphic because they poke fun at this German “failing.” A failing that we Catholics sometimes fall into as well, abandoning the importance of dissent.

  • John

    Ausgezeichnet! Excellent!
    Can’t wait for St. Goddy’s Day on 4May.

    I have to ask, was there a different graphic on this articla in 2009 than there is in 2010?

  • Christy

    funniest thing I’ve read in a long time :)

  • Lisa

    Dear Greg- here’s the solution- Marry Irish! Then you are in like Flynn. It worked for my Vogelberger grandmother. :)

  • Angie

    I heart the graphic. You’re punctual, too?!? I want to be German for a day!

    I’m marking my calendar for May 4th. :)

  • Meg

    I was appalled to see the graphic attached to this article. Why would a picture with such a blatant anti-Semitic message have any place with this article or this website? I would hope that in calling for a legitimate celebration of German culture and heritage, you would have been sensitive to the negative associations such a holiday may raise for some people, and addressed them with sensitivity and tact.

  • Max Lindenman

    Greg: I feel your Weltschmerz, baby. What’s more, I’d like to call the world to account for having ignored the longstanding cultural symbiosis between the Germans and the Irish. When Kapitan von Whateverdorf sank RMS Lusitania off the Old Head of Kinsale, the majestic scenery so moved him that he sailed straight home and wrote an opera about it. Titled “A Lovely Place for Schrecklichkeit,” it combines the playfulness of Wagner and the gravitas of The Unicorn Song. But does anyone think to perform it here? Ach, nein.

  • Boomer

    St Patrick’s Day is an embarrassment to the Irish and to all the “amateurs” who come out drinking that day.

  • Dan

    My absolute alltime favorite Busted Halo article. Glad to see you’ve brought it back out.

  • Michelle

    Many of us who are deeply involved with our Irish culture also harbor disdain for the way St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated as well. Alcohol is a miniscule part of a rich and diverse culture. It’s a shame the “plastic pattys” who make fools of themselves once a year, are the ones who also form most peoples’ impresions of the Irish.

  • Jeanne

    Well you’ve now met someone who doesn’t like St. Patrick’s Day. Although I don’t hold it against the Irish who want to celebrate their beautiful heritage, I HATE the drinking and rowdiness on saint’s feast day. All right, call me an old fogey….but I don’t care for this “holiday”.

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