What’s this fanfare about St Patrick’s Day in Goa, which, if reports are to be believed, is slowly gaining popularity in the state?

St Patrick is a saint of the Catholic Church. The patron saint of Ireland, he is credited with having driven away serpents from the island country, though others say the reptiles never existed in the first place! Understandably, it is a religious feast that has entered the Irish lore, but since when in Goa? If it were a local religious feast, at least one church or chapel here would have celebrated the day…. Not that I know of.

So it appears that this is a new festival being foisted upon the people of Goa. With due respect for the enthusiasm of the Irish settled in our midst – whatever their number – one thing is sure: St Patrick’s Day is not a celebration that has sprouted from the local soil. And in its present avatar, it is less of culture and more of show biz….

Alas, much like Carnival, it is being portrayed as a Catholic festival. But the truth is that this celebration is not connected to religion or culture. It is simply about partying; it is about merry-making and having a good time. And to give it a good name, there is usually some fund-raising attached to it. This may slip away with the passage of time, but the amusements will surely stay.

It is never a good idea to cash in on or commercialize religious dates or events. Look what they’ve done to St Nicholas. People don’t even recognize his name unless pronounced ‘Santa Claus’! The Saint has been made use of to ruin the tender spirit of Christmas the world over. Are we going to use St Patrick’s revered name to destroy the solemnity of Lent in Goa?

It may be true that the Lenten restrictions on eating meat and drinking alcohol are lifted for the sake of this day in Ireland. But in Goa? It is as though the proverbial serpents have sneaked in here!

Let me say with due apologies to the Bard of Avon: If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no Goan ever celebrated. At any rate, pat must come our prayer to St Patrick: “Mag amche pasot!” Pray for us.

(First published in Herald, Panjim, 18 March 2017)