Saturday, March 17, 2007


CD in Play: Wilco, Sky Blue Sky

St. Patrick's Day is here again and everyone gets to be Irish for a day. Except here where they call it "Celtic Fest" so all the local area Celtic descendants can feel involved and important. It's not a bad idea, really, and there are a lot of people around Canada descended from the Scots, Irish and Welsh: I even know a Manxman or four. And Lord knows that Vancouver needs to grow up and get festive. The festival posters are also targeting people who's heritage comes from Cornwall, Breton/Brittany and Galatia.
Here is one problem I have with the festival, and I don't claim to be an expert, but I don't believe there are any Galatians left. Galatia is in Turkey and its inhabitants harried Asia Minor and Greece, many of them moving westward becoming Gauls. The ones that remained in Galatia were just absorbed by the Greeks and, eventually, the Turks. So what is the deal with Galatians? Then again, I am probably not being sensitive enough and am not accounting for those Celts who have fallen forward through the fabric of space and time to arrive here. To any legitimately Celtic Galatians, I make my apologies here. However, it should be noted that the Galicia , Asturias, Cantabria regions in the Northwest of Spain and Portugal acknowledge a Celtic past and cultural traditions.
But truth be told, I am not overly fond of the North American perceptions of what it is to be a "Celt". To some Celtic is all about fiddle music, gigs and reels. To others it is about alcoholism and excess, shedding the lace curtains and being "shanty Irish" through and through. Prior to the 20th century Celts were often depicted as noble savages, ignoring their cultural contributions to the modern world. In the late 20th century Celts might as well have been called magical sages in some circles, where their barbarism and savagery were conveniently ignored (ritual sacrifice, head-hunting, etc) and Celts became stoic, heroic and thoroughly New Age.
Being "Celtic" at this festival has nothing to do with remembering or celebrating the achievements of the assorted Scots, Irish, Welsh, etc. people past and present who have made an impact on world over the centuries. "Celtic" gives a false sense of hegemony between the Celtic peoples. "Celtic" is a vaguely warm and fuzzy term that tourism boards like to use to draw people in.
Vancouver has a large number of people born in Canada with Irish blood in them, but there is no Irish-Canadian community to speak of. St. Patty's Day means tourism dollars in places with a significant Irish population like Boston, New York, London and - of course - Dublin and the rest of Ireland. Celtic Fest is an attempt to cash in on a little bit of that trade at least, and the sense of "Celtic" cultural pride that makes Maritime Canada such a draw. Robbie Burn's Day is beginning to draw more people in, (and a Scottish community we do have) but no one over here is going to get excited about St. David's Day or Tynwald Day.
Perhaps I am being too big of a prick? Maybe I am getting all wound up over nothing? Perhaps. But this St. Patrick's Day I commit myself to civic curmmudgeonry and will trip down to the pub to tip a toast to my Irish forerunners like John, Molly and Declan Corcoran, Johanna Walsh, the Browns, The Foleys, etc. Sláinte.

A final note, the upcoming Wilco album is brilliant. They streamed it on their website back on the 11th and I know someone who got a copy. I'll be picking it up upon its release. Wilco continues to rule.


Anonymous Marlon said...

Top of the mornin' to ya, and all day too.
May the luck of the Irish, be shinin' on you!
I wish you health, I wish you wealth,
I wish you happiness galore.
May good luck go with you
wherever you go!
May your blessings out number the shamrocks that grow/
Love and kisses, and all sorts of good wishes!
May the luck of the Irish follow you from Pub to Pub
Happy St. Patrick's Day

And I'm not even

17 March, 2007 12:58  
Blogger Magnus said...

That must be the fastest comment ever.

17 March, 2007 12:59  
Blogger Magnus said...

Gavin posted a correction to my post, but he broke one of the unspoken rules. I cut and paste that whick did not break the rules and posted it here:

"the posters mentioned Galicia in Spain, not Galatia in Turkey. One's erudition on such matters notwithstanding, one should always try to read carefully. . . .
For my own part, I have as much disgust for what the Feast of St. Patrick has become as I do for what Christmas has. Getting drunk or ridiculous (and contrived) cultural events have as little to do with St. Patrick as commercialism does with the Birth of Christ."

I stand corrected. I took a look at the website for the festival and am humbled. But I could swear it read Galatia...

17 March, 2007 14:02  
Anonymous Gavin said...

I broke a rule? What rule was that? I'm sorry for any offense, but it was done in ignorance. Speak the rule and it will be heeded from now on.

Anyway, let me emphasize that Celtic does equal silliness. As far as I'm concerned, my Celtic ancestors were a bunch of nose-picking, flea-ridden savages until the Romans civilized them. So venerate St. Patrick, but drink a toast to Caesar, Vanquisher of Barbarians, Tamer of Savages, Bringer of Civilization. After all, St. Patrick, in his letter to Coriolanus, identifies himself as a Roman.

17 March, 2007 23:35  
Blogger Magnus said...

Well, the unspoken rule is unspoken for a reason...

19 March, 2007 10:06  
Blogger Magnus said...

You have also bought into Roman propaganda, btw. One wonders how long people will buy into the propaganda that the British and American Empoires have promoted over the years.

19 March, 2007 10:08  
Anonymous Gavin said...

Given that neither the Roman Republic nor the Roman Empire exist as political entities anymore, it's hardly cause for concern.

19 March, 2007 18:08  
Blogger Peter T Chattaway said...

As far as I'm concerned, my Celtic ancestors were a bunch of nose-picking, flea-ridden savages until the Romans civilized them.

And afterwards -- weren't the kings of Clan Connaill inaugurated by public mating with a mare, as late as the 12th century? So says Thomas Cahill in How the Irish Saved Civilization, at any rate.

19 March, 2007 19:13  
Blogger Geosomin said...

Unspoken rules...? Do tell...
Propeganda, like history, is written by the survivors and the walthy class. I'm always amused by the fact that I'm scottish and everyone I know asks me how I"ll celebrate St. Patrick's though scottish is close enough. Very odd.
Me, I just use it as an excuse to make lamb Guinness stew and potato bread and such. Honestly...I think if you celebrate something in the spirit of it, all is well. There's so much commercialism out there that everything gets all mucked up no matter what the event. The idea of putting "something for everyone" into holidays and events is just baffling to me...why is everything to be for everybody?
Oh yeah...profit.
I'll get off my cynical soap box and go have a Harp.

20 March, 2007 08:44  

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