Catherine the Great

Yesterday it was St Patrick’s Day.  It seems that I was chatting with Hubby asking him if he had a green beer to celebrate St Patrick’s Day.  It is probably worth mentioning at this point that Hubby is a Scotsman by birth who says he has been neutralised (had half his brain removed to become an Aussie – big call for someone born near to Glasgow!)  Anyway, he went on to say why on earth would I celebrate St Patrick’s Day we were having a laugh really.  I finally twigged that he being a Scotsman isn’t going to celebrate an Irish day of drinking.  

He said in protest that until there was widespread celebration of St Andrew’s Day he would not be celebrating St Patrick’s Day with any green beer or otherwise.  I decided if we would be celebrating St Andrew’s Day (which kind of happens to be Hubby’s name) then it was only fair the we should also celebrate Catherine the Great Day and from this day forward I would like to be addressed by my appropriate title of Tsar Catherine.  We were having a laugh together I went to bed and wrote it all down in my daily journal and half started this.  

When I was trying to think about what to write today I saw this in my drafts read my journal to refresh my mind and knew exactly what to write.  

Let’s start with St Patrick’s Day 

St Patrick’s day is actually a religious feast day of the Patron Saint of Ireland.  It is celebrated on the date of his death.  St Patrick died in 5th Century AD after spending many years evangelising and converting the traditionally pagan Irish.  He was from a family of Christian priests.  Within the Catholic tradition it is widely accepted that St Patrick drove all the snakes from Ireland.  Many believe that there have never been snakes in Ireland at all.  

In the early 17th Century St Patrick’s Day was made an official Christian celebration, celebrated by most denominations of the Christian Church (including Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, Orthodox).  It is a day that celebrates the arrival of Christianity in Ireland and the culture and heritage of the Irish.  Traditionally celebrations involve parades, festivals, shamrocks, wearing of green or orange.  Many religious also attend special feast day masses. As St Patrick’s Day typically falls in the Lent period the restrictions of eating and drinking are lifted for the day.  Which is why today the majority of people who celebrate St Patrick’s Day use it as a good excuse for a piss up rather than a religious celebration.  

As the Irish have spread out around the world so to have St Patrick’s Day celebrations.  Just about anywhere you go in the world on March 17 you will find Irish Bands, people dancing and signing, green drinks in pubs, Irish food on sale, people wearing green, funny hats, shamrocks, and many more typically Irish symbols.  It is a really fun day had by all.  Though many traditionalists are frustrated that it has become an excuse for a pissup.  

Now we head over the seas to Scotland and St Andrew’s Day 

St Andrew’s day is Scotland’s national day, it is celebrated on November 30.  It is thought to have originated from a time in the 11th Century when animals were killed in the lead up to the winter months to make sure that there enough animals to survive the winter.  It is only in more modern times that it was given national day status.  In 2006 the Scottish Parliament designated it as an official bank holiday but banks are not required to close or give their staff the day off if they don’t want to.  St Andrew’s University gives students the day off but it is not a set rule.  

St Andrew’s Day is typically celebrated in similar ways as St Patrick’s Day, as a celebration of Scottish culture with traditional Scottish food, music and dance.  In Scotland it marks the beginning of all the winter festivals with Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve but celebrations may go on through to Jan 2) and Burns night (celebrating the poet Robbie Burns a long evening feast on Jan 25).

St Andrew’s Day is also an official flag day in Scotland.  It is the one day of the year that the Saint Andrew’s Cross is to fly on all government buildings with flagpoles.  Prior to 2002 they only flew the Union Jack.  Since 2002 the Saint Andrew’s cross replaces the Union Jack on buildings with only one flag pole on St Andrew’s Day.

Lastly, Catherine the Great 

Catherine the Great was Tsar of the Russian Empire from 9 July 1762 – 17 November 1796. She was Empress Consort from 5 January 1762 – 9 July 1762, when estranged from her husband Peter III, Catherine and her supporters staged a Coup to usurp power as Catherine  found it difficult to support him as Tsar, policies and eccentricities particularly his admiration of Frederick II the Prussian King with whom Russia had been at war with for the previous seven years.  Catherine had her husband arrested and forced him to sign an abdication handing the throne to her.  A couple of weeks later Peter III was found dead at the hands of one of Catherine’s co-conspirators there is no evidence that she ordered this assassination.

The reign of Catherine is often considered a Golden Age for the Empire and Russian nobility.  Not so much for the serfs of Russia during the same period.  Peter III had previously issued an order to free all the serfs belonging to the Orthodox church which Catherine immediately annulled.  Whilst it was not legal for landowners to kill their serfs as they were technically owned by the State there was no obligation to treat them well and if they found their serfs particularly troublesome the could petition Catherine to have them shipped off to Siberia.

Whilst Catherine oversaw a time of construction of mansions all over Russia, she was most certainly considered a despot!  She was enthusiastic about the Enlightenment and she was also a strong supporter of higher eduction for women (noble ones of course!)  Overseeing the establishment of the first state-financed higher education for women in Europe.

Throughout her reign she also reformed administration of many of the provinces, and founded many new towns and cities.  Catherine also continued to modernise Russia, she implemented the first paper money in the Russian Empire.  There was strict military conscription that relied heavily on the serfs, which also caused tensions between landowners, peasants and the state (who technically owned all of the serfs!)

Catherine extended the borders of the Russian Empire, she also had a reputation as a patron of the arts, literature and education.  As a widow she also had a reputation of being highly sexual.  Throughout her long reign she took many lovers and then when she got bored with them gave them large gifts of land and serfs.

It is clear that Catherine was no saint!  However, I really think that is irrelevant!  If it is decreed in our house that to celebrate St Patrick’s day we must celebrate St Andrew’s day where we all do the highland fling, eat black pudding, drink Scotch Whiskey and listen to bagpipes!  Then I decree as Catherine the Great of this family we will also have a where I will be waited upon hand and foot!  I think it is also only fitting that Catherine the Great and myself happen to share the same birthday!

Quotes Catherine said about herself and many might say fit me quite well.  Perhaps I have been here before as a despotic Tsar of Russia. 

“My disposition was naturally so accommodating that no one was ever with me a quarter of an hour without falling comfortably into conversation, chatting with me as if they had known me for a long time.”

[On her childhood:]
“I was horribly curious, quite stubborn, and most ingratiating. … I was extremely fickle.”

In our house there will be green cake and beer on St Patrick’s day (to celebrate my Irish heritage – my grandfather 6 times removed but in a direct line was transported to NSW as a social prisoner for speaking out against the English in 1821, his wife and 5 surviving children came as free settlers in 1825!)

Ach there be black pudding (blergh but hubby loves it!) and assorted other Scottish treats (hopefully sweet things!) and Scotch Whiskey (BYO!) on November 30 every year.

Last but not least May 2 will forever more be known as Catherine the Great Day!!!!

 

 

 

 

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