St. Patrick’s Day

March 17th, 2011

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, readers. If you are of Irish descent, how do you feel about St. Patrick’s Day? I ask because I got this truncated letter last week–

I read with interest the recent letter from a “true blond” who resented all the dumb blond jokes. I am of Irish descent and I resent the mockery that is made of St. Patrick’s Day. Americans seem to feel that they can drink and party with wild abandon on that day. They make blatant fun of the Irish as a people who get drunk and uneducated. This is far from true. As St Patrick’s day rolls around again, I want to crawl into

Sadly, we’ll never know what our Irish friend wants to crawl into. I think we can safely assume it’s either shame-based or regressive.

What are your thoughts St.P.D.? I’m not a fan of amateur-drunkenness holidays, although I no more blame the actual Irish for this any more than I blame Pope Gregory for New Year’s. I expect I’d hate it a good deal more if it were based on some Ukrainian saint, and people were vomiting cheap vodka on their blue and yellow sweatshirts. Then again, maybe I’d see it in good spirit and think, “Hey, everyone wants to be Ukrainian for a day! Lighten up!”

What about you?

UPDATE: St. Patrick’s Day, boo, from an Irish-American Bostonian. St. Patrick’s Day, yay, Guinness-braised corned beef from Melissa at NuVal.


18 Responses to “St. Patrick’s Day”

  1. Jerry on March 17, 2011 10:04 am

    How does one get uneducated?

    I’m of mostly German descent. I don’t think I would mind if everybody in the U.S. dressed up in black, red, and yellow and got drunk on Oktoberfest.

    I suppose the German jokes might get on my nerves, if I knew any. I don’t even know any Irish jokes.

  2. veronica on March 17, 2011 10:12 am

    I’m a European-American mutt of Irish descent. I love St Patrick’s Day (especially when it’s nice and sunny out). What I don’t love is when my non-Irish American friends get bitter and openly disparage the parades and frivolity and think it’s stupid one guy gets this much attention.

    I may treat it as the cultural/secular holiday it has become, but it’s a fun day to go out and have a good time and nobody bats an eye if you have March 18th as a personal day.

    What I find more aggravating is that there are people who think Mardi Gras exists as a day to go nuts and drink themselves silly…and don’t even know it’s tied to religion.

  3. EA Week on March 17, 2011 10:28 am

    I’m also of “European mutt” ancestry, so I’m about as much Irish as I am anything else. Sometimes I wear green, sometimes not–it’s a color that doesn’t look especially good on me, so I usually end up wearing teal. I’m wearing it this year, though, because it’s a warm, sunny day, and green feels especially spring-like after such a miserable winter.

    I don’t get drunk, though, and I don’t care whether there’s a parade or not. To me, St. Patrick’s Day is another one of those weird little Bostonian things, like having the day off for the marathon, or eating ice cream outdoors in winter. It doesn’t impact me very much, so I don’t find it offensive.

  4. KellyK on March 17, 2011 10:31 am

    Another American mutt here, but more Irish than anything else. (A whole quarter!) I don’t much notice St. Patrick’s Day or have strong feelings about it. I occasionally wear green, if I remember.

    The drinking…well, we seem to turn anything into an excuse to drink. New Years, football, St. Patrick’s Day. It’s not my thing (and I can’t drink more than a very rare sip because of meds I’m on anyway). So I don’t necessarily notice.

    I can see where the drunk jokes and bad fake accents would rub people the wrong way and get old very fast.

  5. Hope on March 17, 2011 10:51 am

    I like wearing green, because it’s a good color for me. :p

    I think that if I was actually Irish, I’d be annoyed at people co-opting my national identity. The whole “kiss me, I’m Irish” thing would drive me crazy.

    It’s funny – a hundred years ago, the Irish were completely discriminated against here in Boston. Job postings would say “no Irish.” And now everybody wants to BE Irish. I guess that might cheer me up a bit, but not much. Especially if anybody puked up green beer on my shoes.

  6. veronica on March 17, 2011 11:08 am

    Believe me EA Week, St Patrick’s Day is not a weird Bostonian thing…the NYC St Patrick’s Day Parade is pretty impressive. Of course it’s not a city holiday in NYC, but I think it ends up being a low attendance day. I remember going to my externship on St Patrick’s Day and rode a practically empty subway the entire way from Brooklyn through Manhattan and into Queens.

  7. bluemoose on March 17, 2011 1:13 pm

    I’m genetically a mutt, but was raised as hard-core, Irish-American, South-side Chicago as a pure blood. St. Patrick’s Day is day of my people — the Chicago Irish Americans, not the actual Irish. And yeah, my family as a whole can drink. But they drink — they don’t get drunk, and that there is a huge difference.

    St. Paddy’s day is like New Year’s — amateur nights where, if you want a drink, better get one within walking distance of home because a lot of people who shouldn’t be are on the roads. Most of the jokes and traditions don’t bother me — I heard them from Irish American friends and family before I heard them from anyone else, and self-deprecating humor is a staple of the culture.

    All that said, since I’m working a 12-hour day today, I will not be celebrating at all. Although I did receive “haementschen” (which I likely spelled wrong) from a co-worker in honor of upcoming Purim, so I’m celebrating, in food, someone else’s cultural traditions. Way tastier than cheap green beer.

  8. EA Week on March 17, 2011 1:17 pm

    Very interesting, Veronica; thanks for sharing. I guess I figured SPD was a weird Boston thing because my friends from other parts of the country who’ve visited the area on (or around) March 17 all commented on the crowds and wondered what the big deal was.

    Complete agreement with Hope that having one’s national identity co-opted for the sake of parades, silly t-shirts, and getting drunk must get annoying very quickly.

  9. Laura on March 17, 2011 2:09 pm

    St. Patrick’s Day is day of my people — the Chicago Irish Americans, not the actual Irish.

    Exactly! Corned beef and cabbage, for example – not a traditional Irish food. Beef was too expensive to use in food like that; you’d use rashers (thick cut bacon), because pigs are easy to raise on small farms. Corned beef and cabbage is an Irish-American dish, adopted when immigrants got to Chicago, with its stockyards and cheap beef.

    I’m first-generation Irish-American: my mother immigrated from Ireland, and took me back to see our family a dozen times. So I feel a connection to Ireland, but not to the Irish-American traditions of people whose ancestors emigrated 150 years ago.

    When I was a teenager, all the tacky co-optation worked me up into a rage, but I’ve learned to ignore it since then. No green, no going out, just a normal workday.

    The other ethnic group goes through something similar is Mexican-Americans, with Cinco de Mayo. Green derby hats = sombreros, dyed beer or Guinness = margaritas, etc.

    Of course, as Hope points out above, discrimination against the Irish ended a hundred years ago, while actual discrimination against Mexican-Americans continues.

    St. Patrick’s Day is the ultimate example of “optional ethnicity” – the white privilege of getting to be “ethnic” when it’s fun and ALSO getting to be a default “American” when that’s convenient. For a sociological take on what I mean here, see “Optional Ethnicities: For Whites Only?” by Mary Waters.

  10. jane on March 17, 2011 2:14 pm

    To my mind, this is a silly thing to get upset about. It’s a day out of the year where everyone _wants_ to be _like_ you. Everyone proudly proclaims the little bit of Irish in them, and, if they don’t have it, try to find some anyway. Sure, the rowdy drinking is annoying, but no more annoying than it is on New Years, 4th of July, day before Thanksgiving, etc etc.

    If the t-shirts said “Kick him, He’s Irish” instead of “Kiss Me, I’m Irish,” that’s something to get upset about. But everyone wanting to share a little piece of your heritage for a largely secular holiday? If that’s your biggest problem, or frankly even a little problem worth mentioning, be grateful that your life is so good. You don’t see people lining up for parades trying to be Jewish for a day on Purim, nor do you see people proudly claiming their 1/8 African heritage on Kwaanza. Don’t find racial prejudice where there is none, just play along for the day.

  11. Laura on March 17, 2011 2:21 pm

    But jane, almost no one wants to be actually Irish. What they want to be is an inaccurate, insulting stereotype of the Irish – the drunken boor.

    If people were holding James Joyce readings or listening to Christy Moore, then I’d be flattered.

  12. jane on March 17, 2011 3:45 pm

    I get that. But I would say that while some people want to be the inaccurate insulting stereotype, many people do identify with the Irish as kind of a collective folk hero; the “little guy” who is downtrodden forever, only to finally overthrow his oppressor. I think that is what many people are celebrating when they are out at St. Pats parades, etc. Yes, there is the annoying drinking. And I think there is a real pride there for a great many people that is, most unfortunately, drowning in (hopefully-not-green) beer.

    I saw this and thought of your comment. I hope you find it funny:

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/irishamericans-gear-up-for-the-reinforcin-o-the-st,9200/

  13. veronica on March 17, 2011 3:57 pm

    EA Week: It’s probably not a big deal in parts of the country where the Irish Americans didn’t settle and make the transformation from undesired impoverished class to political ruling class.

  14. Gnatalby on March 17, 2011 4:54 pm

    That salon article is irritating.

    She doesn’t think other accents are mocked? Really? She doesn’t think other ethnicities are subject to cartoonish stereotypes?

    This idea that one’s own group is subject to “the last acceptable prejudice” is ridiculous. I would love it if most prejudice were unacceptable, but it’s not, and you just look self-centered if all you can see is your own oppression.

  15. Emma Hill on March 18, 2011 9:18 am

    I’m English, but have lived in Dublin, Ireland (just clarifying which Dublin because the last time I said that it was assumed I meant the one in California) for 11 years now.

    Sorry to break the bubble of your truncated letter writer but here in the green isle Paddy’s day (the nickname the Irish use) is most definitely a day for drunken boors.

    Most towns and cities have a parade in the middle of the day (here’s Dublin’s one: http://www.thejournal.ie/tens-of-thousands-turn-out-for-st-patricks-day-parades-slideshow-2011-03/), and that’s a family thing. Then anyone with any sense heads home and doesn’t leave again until the next morning.

    Here in Dublin all pubs and liquor stores are closed until 4pm to try and minimise the drinking while the kids are in town but on the dot of four all hell breaks loose. It’s mostly younger folks, say 18 to 30, but plenty of older people will drink to excess too. We’re talking staggering in the road, fighting, vomiting and lying insensible in the gutter. Not pretty and it’s one of the holidays where I, and most other sensible adults, refuse to go out – the others are New Years Eve and Halloween where the behaviour is the same.

    There is always the wearing of flags, stupid t-shirts, hats and wigs but the beer is the same colour it always is – black. The Liffey is usually dyed green though.

    For a more cultured version of the Irish psyche visit Dublin on Bloom’s Day (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloomsday) when Dublin is full of people reading Ulysses, eating kidneys and riding vintage bicycles. Not all at the same time though…

  16. Emma Hill on March 18, 2011 9:30 am

    Seriously, it is really all about the booze. One of my Irish friends posted this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oax3cUFsBS on Facebook and it was much liked, again by actual born-bred-living-in-Ireland Irish.

  17. WhirledPeasPlease on March 18, 2011 11:29 am

    St. Patrick’s Day is definitely my least favorite holiday. I try to avoid the city because the merrymakers get a little crazy. On the T yesterday I saw one very drunk guy nearly stumble onto the tracks (at 4 pm!) and another guy lit a cigarette on the train car and snuffed it out on the window.

    I’m not a city person to begin with, and the huge crowds of rowdy drunks is just overwhelming! Last St. Patrick’s Day I went out for sushi. :)

  18. delia on March 20, 2011 2:38 pm

    st paddy’s day is one of my favorite holidays, but for me its a family holiday, and one of great importance to who we are. i usually see aunts uncles and grandparents from one side of my family or the other, and we often go to a pub with other people from our culture/community. it’s strange to celebrate a holiday that is so well known and yet so misunderstood. it’s all folk songs and singing and dancing, very family friendly with lots of laughs and stories.

    as some have pointed out, it is definitely an Irish-American (Ireland finally got with the program for reasons of tourism, and liking a good party) holiday, and as a 100% Boston Irish Catholic girl i take a lot of pride in the actual culture of being Irish-American. we know our history on both sides of the Atlantic, and we keep up with the politics as well. I know the correct response to the phrase “top of the morning to ya!” (and the rest of the day to you). we eat corn beef and cabbage for Sunday dinner, although because my mother’s from dot i have no idea if it’s supposed to be pronounced corned, corn or cahn beef.

    it does annoy me sometimes when friends who are some weird fraction of Irish or not Irish at all and know nothing of the culture other than the color green and alcohol try to tell me how i should be Irish. i am often reprimanded if i don’t drink early enough, or for not liking Guinness (i’ll take a killians or some jameson, thank you.) people my age (college) get annoyed when i don’t have the entire discography of the dropkick murphys on itunes, but they don’t know the pogues or the parting glass.

    but most of all, if you think you have to choose between drinking and celebrating real Irish-American culture, you’ve missed our spirit entirely.

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