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