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.