Yes, yes, I know, we've just finished with the green beer and the shamrocks, the corned beef and cabbage, the dancing of jigs and the transatlantic greetings, but today is an important holiday, too. At least it could be if we all made more of a fuss about it.
Today is the feast of St. Joseph, husband of Mary, mother of Jesus and, according to my research, patron saint of all of the following: the Universal Church, Canada, travellers, fathers, workers, families, schools and a happy death. That just about covers it - at least in my life.
To be sure, St. Patrick's day is important for all of us who claim even an ounce of Irish blood in our veins. According to my family tree, my great-grandmother on my mother's father's side was Irish. In my younger days that was enough of a heritage to send me and my friends to an Irish pub to dance and drink the rainy night away on the 17th of March. By the looks of it, the Irish celebrate this national holiday with great gusto; after all, St. Patrick brought them something new to fight about and then drove out all the snakes. Kidding aside, a country like Ireland, whose Christian heritage has played such an obvious role in its riveting history, does well to acknowledge and celebrate St. Patrick. It makes good sense.
Following that line of logic, wouldn't Canada celebrate St. Joseph's day the same way as the Irish celebrate their patron saint's? Not so much. Canada is funny that way. It's full of saint-honouring Christians from a multitude of ethnic backgrounds, who have played a major role in the education of its citizens, the leadership of the nation, the building of it's infrastructure, and, let's face it, the building of the population itself, so shouldn't we have parades, dress up in brown linen robes and fake beards and decorate our homes and businesses in a hammer and saw motif (St. Joseph was a carpenter, in case you didn't know)? We wouldn't even have to dye our beer. It's available in a multitude of shades of brown already.
Perhaps the times are a-changin', though. I see in the local news that St. Ann's Parish in Abbotsford is having a 'Paddy and Joe Festival' this Saturday with dinner by Dutchman Caterer's (3 entree selection), a live band "The Groggin Noggins", cash bar, and Irish Dancing Entertainment. This new festival is apparently to celebrate the 'solemnity of St. Joseph, Patron Saint of Canada', but everything about it screams St. Patrick's Day. How typically Canadian. We lure you in with the promise of a good party, and while you're here we introduce, very tentatively, a new concept. We don't want to ruffle your feathers or come on like a tonne of bricks, which brings me to my final point: St. Joseph was, by all accounts, a quiet and gentle man, who taught his son how to work with wood, and was supportive to his wife - the ideal family man. He isn't the kind of saint with a resume of flashy miracles performed and wars averted by his influence. To my imagination he is like the good things about Canada itself: understated, humble, subtle in its international influence, but at the same time, always there working away for the good of the world, peacefully smiling over its challenges, enduring 'stormy weather' with patience, and wisely guiding and educating the next generation of 'bright lights'.
So, perhaps we Canadians are more correct than we know in how we celebrate our patron saint's day. St. Joseph probably wouldn't want much of a fuss made over him anyway. Still, while I will not be attending St. Ann's 'Paddy and Joe Festival', I will raise my glass of amber Kilkenny ale and wish you, from my heart, a very happy St. Joseph's Day.
The painting is Georges de la Tour's "St. Joseph the Carpenter" available as a print from http://www.art-prints-on-demand.com/.