St. Patrick’s legacy threatened by return of snakes

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Dear Otus,

As the granddaughter of Irish immigrants, you can imagine my dismay at the developments in Ireland last week. I simply can’t believe that after all these centuries, the Irish would abandon St. Patrick. I thought we put all this behind us a few years back. I’ll wish you a happy St. Paddy’s Day anyway. I hope it’s not for the last time.

— Aoife Siobhan Fenton,

Hot Springs Village

Dear Aoife,

It was wholly a pleasure to hear from you and to offer you solace and commiseration in these disconcerting times. As comfort, I remind you of the ancient Irish adage, “Is iad na muca ciuine a itheann an mhin.”

Roughly translated from the Gaelic that means, “It’s the quiet pig that eats the grain.” Let these words be a comfort to you on this, the likely final St. Patrick’s Day.

Sadly, hagiographers suspect it’s highly probable that St. Patrick will soon be downgraded just as was St. Christopher, St. Nicholas, St. George, St. Euphrosyne and 89 other saints in 1969.

And, yes, I recall a similar scare five years ago. The alleged 2013 anguine discovery on the Emerald Isle turned out to be an Internet hoax perpetrated by a cadre of disaffected youths from the CYO of the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Perpetuity in Boston.

The prank went viral and had 87 million “hits” before being debunked.

Unfortunately, this latest discovery was verified by the Europese Slangenvereniging in the Netherlands. The head of the editorial board of Litteratura Serpentium, Marcel van der Voort, has identified the reptiles as the nonvenomous colubrid barred grass snake, Natrix helvetica.

The first snake was pulled from a bidet in Tus Nua (“new beginning”), an Airbnb in Roundwood (Tochar), County Wicklow. A teeming clutch of 24 was then discovered in a peat bog near Lough Dan in nearby Wicklow Mountains National Park.

The specimens have since been relocated to van der Voort’s lab in the basement of the Royal Eijsbouts bell foundry in Asten, Netherlands. He has evidence that snakes have been in the remote bog for centuries.

If this is, indeed, St. Patrick’s last hurrah, well, the fellow had a good run.

Credited as the founder of Christianity in Ireland, St. Patrick (c. AD 385–461) was able to convert the island from Celtic polytheism thanks, in large part, to his banishment of all the serpents from the land.

St. Patrick has had his feast day (“La Fheile Padraig”) celebrated on March 17 — the traditional day of his death — since the ninth century. It was placed on the universal liturgical calendar in the early 17th century and has evolved into a beloved holiday celebrated by Irish and non-Irish alike.

Thanks to the Irish diaspora, we in America have such traditions as wearing o’ the green on March 17, stealing kisses beneath a hanging bunch of shamrocks, pinching those who eschew wearing green (a tradition that will get you charged with sexual harassment these days) and Boston’s famous Leprechaun Chunkin’ Contest.

St. Patrick’s Day parades originated in America in the 18th century and spread to Ireland during the 20th century. We here in Arkansas have become renowned for having the world’s shortest. Hot Springs’ 98-foot long Bridge Street has become world famous for the event.

Today’s celebration, known officially as the “First Ever 15th Annual World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade,” begins at 6:30 p.m. with the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders and the legendary, lovely and talented Conway hula hooper, Katie Wilson, who hoops under the moniker of Katie Sunshine.

An estimated 90,000 onlookers will crowd Central and Malvern avenues leading up to Bridge Street.

At precisely 7:30 p.m., the parade steps off with grand marshal and music legend Joey Fatone, the second most famous alumnus of *NSYNC, leading the way after actor Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite) officially starts.

Adding a special pizzazz this year will be an eight-horse hitch of the famous Budweiser Clydesdales.

Over the years, a veritable who’s-who of Hollywood A-listers have served as grand marshals. Included on the roster are Alfonso Ribeiro, Kevin Bacon, Jim Belushi, John Ratzenberger, George Wendt, Mike Rowe, Mario Lopez, Pauley Shore, and crowd favorites Bo Derek and her life partner, John Corbett.

What now? The early favorite to replace St. Patrick is St. Brigid of Kildare (c. 453-525), a friend of St. Patrick’s without his herpetological baggage.

Until next time, Kalaka notes St. Brigid’s feast day is Feb. 1, which may be a bit chilly for the parade in Hot Springs.


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