St. Patrick’s Day plays a crucial role in the American holiday calendar, bridging the gap between the post-Christmas “TV event” season (Superbowl, award shows, etc.) and the summertime “grilled meat” season. More importantly, though, it seems to me that St. Patrick’s Day expresses the fundamental nihilism at the heart of American life. The sole purpose of the holiday is drunkenness — indeed, it is a celebration of drunkenness for its own sake. The completely phoned-in requirement of green clothing makes even the abomination of adult Halloween look like a rich and meaningful tradition. The reference to Irish culture — consisting of excessive drinking and the color green — is not so much a parody of Ireland as a parody of the very idea of a cultural heritage as such.
As we walked by the local “Irish pub” at 10 this morning, I pondered all those people with their drinks and their green t-shirts, and I thought: “This is it. This is all there is — utter nothingness.” When the end comes, we will all be bloated with cheap beer, wearing our green t-shirts, watching the asteroid strike or cataclysmic flood or nuclear detonation on big screen TVs, screaming, “Wooooooo!!!” And half of us won’t even tip.