Today, St. Joseph’s Day, the principal feast day of St. Joseph in the Roman Catholic Church, will be celebrated with revelry worldwide. Cities will close their streets for parades, celebrations will dominate the news headlines, and red and white (the colors of the day) will be worn by friends and family in every direction. Today ends a short season of cultural priority for retailers worldwide who have dedicated sections of their respective stores for Italian-themed goods that will accompany these celebrations, including hats, glasses and those really odd headbands with a tchotchke on top. Like this past weekend’s celebration to honor St. Patrick, the world will celebrate Italian-style today.
That’s not so accurate, is it?
I just ended a long and wonderful run of days commemorating St. Patrick, the patron Saint of Ireland. I celebrated with colleagues (as we do annually) on several evenings before the weekend, and with friends and family on the day itself. In addition to being a blast, it was natural, appropriate and, well, it’s just what you do on St. Patrick’s Day.
Amid last week’s holiday chaos, I wondered how St. Patrick’s Day became such a big holiday worldwide. It was likely fueled by the celebratory spirit of the Irish people who gladly share their enthusiasm for the day with others who are willing to embrace it. It was likely the positive influence of Irish traditions – gathering as a group, being with family, enjoying a Guinness early in the day – that appealed to the masses. It’s also likely, however, that marketing and positive PR played a big part, too.
In the days leading up to Sunday (St. Patrick’s Day), the local bookstore left a collection of Irish-themed books on a table at its entrance, and a librarian read a favorite Irish folk tale during story time. Corned beef and cabbage was served at a number of local fundraisers, and you couldn’t eat, drink or be merry at a local restaurant or pub without the influence of the season. In addition, retailers large and small (local and larger) dedicated prime shelf space to Irish-themed goods to further the holiday spirit. At some point on the weekend my young kids watched the classic Irish movie “Darby O’Gill,” Notre Dame’s men’s basketball team took to the floor in green uniforms, and the city of Chicago turned its river green. (This list is endless, but I’m certain you get the point.)
It’s highly possible that St. Patrick’s Day comes at a time when we – Irish and non-Irish alike – need something to celebrate. We’re two months from the turn or the year and, at least here in New England, we’re counting down ‘til spring. It’s far more meaningful than this, but the Irish gave us a well-timed reason to get together.
Influential Italians will likely scoff at my recommendation to execute a comprehensive and content-rich public relations campaign to whip up excitement for St. Joseph’s Day. They will likely frown upon my perspective that the important holiday needs trained spokespeople, and PR professionals pitching the Today Show and The New York Times, while simultaneously working like wild to keep this particular holiday off The Onion. They likely wouldn’t agree that a concerted channel marketing effort might result in Italian flags, cook books and bags of pasta having the pole position at key retailers worldwide.
I think, however, it would help raise the visibility of this special day. A well-executed social media campaign, run by one of the top PR agencies, that nicely complements in-store happenings could be a huge coup for a major retailer. (Get ahead of your competition by embracing something new!) A solid push behind this event could focus – and encourage even more celebrating this time of the year.
In any case, I’m looking forward to another celebration and hope you are too. Imagine if cities and towns nationwide saw their Italian restaurants brimming with all ethnic backgrounds, the revelers tipping glasses of red wine and dancing late into the evening?
Author note #1: I’m a fairly authentic Italian guy who married a dynamite Irish lady. We’re fortunate to have tremendous families who, among other characteristics, embrace these holidays like we do. We mutually look forward to enjoying each special day. That being said, we don’t compare or have these holidays compete – but rather we embrace each with gusto. (I read once that New Yorkers don’t view the rivalry with Boston as a rivalry, but rather that’s the myopic perspective of Boston sports fan. Similarly, we don’t believe you can or should compare these two days, so we don’t bother.)
Author note #2: I was fascinated with the recent Vatican happenings – see my previous post about the PR value of black smoke – and I recognize that I’m now sharing thoughts about two Saintly individuals. Important to know is that I’m at the end of my Church-related musings. That is, until I host a blow-out celebration for St. Pius in late April. J