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March 17, 2009

St. Patrick's Day: Celebrating Wonderful Irish People With A Shitty American Holiday

I am all for people feeling good about where they come from but St. Patrick’s Day may be the worst holiday of the year. Celebrating Irish heritage is one thing, but celebrating it by embracing all the worst stereotypes of a culture is something else entirely. It would be like us Jews having Money Grubbing Day.

The Irish are a proud people. I know this because I read “Angela’s Ashes.” So I know the indignation and hardships they have endured here and abroad. They’ve accomplished much in this country, which makes me think there’s got to be a better way for them to honor their heritage than by throwing up.

As far as I can tell, the primary (and possibly only) activities associated with this stupid holiday are drinking beer, wearing green, and eating salty food. Which are also the primary activities associated with going to a Jets game. The corned beef and cabbage is traditional Irish fare, the green connotes the  beauty of the homeland, and the beer reminds us of the blight of alcoholism which has destroyed so many Irish families over the centuries.

If ever there was a people who should use alcohol less to celebrate their ancestry, it is the Irish. Using alcohol to celebrate being Irish like using small pox to celebrate being Native American. Or, now that I think about it, it’s also like using alcohol to celebrate Native American heritage.

New York City is a particularly egregious place to spend St. Patrick’s Day. As I write these words from the seventh floor of a supposedly soundproof building, I can hear whoops of joy rising from the streets below. Most likely these are people who started their day early in order to watch the big, gay-hating parade wend its way down Fifth Avenue. Ironically, most of the participants in the parade march while wearing women’s skirts. Why cross-dressing is fine but being gay is not in the Irish community is a source of mystery to me, but not one I care to attempt to solve because if there is one thing I like less than St. Patrick’s Day it is being beaten by cross-dressing Irish cops.

The celebrating starts early here in New York, and continues until the streets run with vomit. Because there are so many people of Irish descent in this city, it has become a de facto citywide holiday. When Puerto Rican Day rolls around in the summer, the fiestas are largely confined to the Puerto Ricans. Not so with the Irish. Participation is more or less mandatory for all people regardless of race or color or creed. In a way it’s nice, but it’s also annoying. I do not enjoy justifying my clothing choices to strangers wearing plastic leprechaun hats. If you are wearing one of those hats, I shouldn’t have to justify any clothing choices I may make. Honestly, once you’ve put on a plastic green leprechaun, you’ve given up the right to judge me about anything. “Why aren’t you wearin’ green?” they slur. To which I respond, “Why aren’t you unconscious?”

Nor do I feel the need to say cutesy things like “Top o’ the morning to ya’” or to kiss anybody simply for being Irish. If anything, I am going to be on extra-high herpes alert when confronted by strangers wearing buttons instructing me to kiss them.

On the other hand, I do enjoy Irish music the way I enjoy penicillin, in small doses. Irish soda bread is delicious. Irish sweaters are warm but itchy. Clog dancing I can do without, unless it is performed by Savion Glover. And that I think runs the full survey of Irish culture, unless you count eating sheep’s eyeballs, as recounted by Frank McCourt in the aforementioned "Angela’s Ashes.”

The Irish are a lovely people and I am happy they have a day to celebrate their heritage, but good Lord, can’t it be on a day when I am out of the country? Or can’t they at least do it more quietly? Or even better, can’t they do it in Ireland?



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Belgian Whore

I celebrated St Patrick's day in an Irish pub last night.
It was quite delightful. The normally bitter and angry bartenders were dressed exactly the same (in all black) but they wore sparkly green bows.
Also, the drab, wooden furnature and walls were covered in four-leaf clovers and signs that said, "St Patrick's day week, drink a Guinness."
They were also giving out free plastic hats and little head bands that had two four-leaf clovers springing out like antlers.
That package that the head band thing-ys came in said they were called, "Lil' bobbers."
Which was delightful.
Also, everyone there but my two friends and I were Irish.. so I pretended to be Belgian and not American.
No one really believed me.


I am Irish and agree with this 100%. I'm basically a drunk, but this is the one day of the year I refuse to be social. I mean, what the hell is this. I don't see Black people being extra rights-y on MLK Day. Like, should they all be riding the front of the bus for fun showing off sharing water foundations?

For the love of God, fellow irish people - stay the fuck home. This shit usually falls on a week day (hello, work tomorrow), drinking is bad for us anyway, and nobody likes us the other 364 days of the year because we're a bunch of drunk assholes.

Mark Zeo

Thanks you for putting into words what I have been feeling all along!

Donna Donovan

Well, I celebrated my heritage by making a nice pot of bacon, cabbage and potates (corned beef is not traditional, except maybe in Dublin), made some soda bread and had my Guiness, which I do with every meal. I did wear green, though not intentionally--it was my Marshall University sweatshirt. St Patrick's Day is not so much a Catholic holiday anymore, as it is a holiday to honor a great country: Ireland. The best way to do that, as I see it, is to honor those who died fighting for a united Ireland, and those who are still POW's. 26 + 6 = 1 Ireland


agreed. and the worst part is that the stereotype is played up during this holiday to sell crap to people who can't afford and don't need the crap in the 1st place. i hope one day we can move past these degrading stereotypes whether they be Irish, Native American, Black, Muslim, Gay or whatever.


I'm not a fan of St. Patty's Day and I'm actually part Irish. The only thing I like to do on St. Patrick's Day is go around to people who aren't Irish and say to them, "Pssst...hey! Would ya like a lil' Irish in ya today? Eh? Eeeh? I'm talking about my penis being inside of you. Because I'm part Irish. See? So if my penis was inside of you, you'd have some Irish in you too. Get it? Here, check out THIS slab of corned beef! (Pointing to my penis) Eh? That could be INSIDE of you if you want. You could be Irish! Eh?"

Rarely do I get through this whole speech without a.) the person walking away furious and offended, b.) running from police, followed by a high speed chase and shootout with police AND the National Guard, or c.) me having sex with a non-Irish person (Actually "c" has never happened yet. But there's always next year.)


Q: why don't you see any Irish lawyers?
A: because they can never pass the bar
P.S. Chicago does it better than NYC

Jessica from Kildare

You are DEAD ON! St.Pats (who is this patty character?) should be renamed, "Ireland as 19th century immigrants remember it". Corned Beef is not Irish, why have it corned when you have beautiful, free range steak to eat? Why turn beer green, you think Irish bars in Dublin do that? And leprechaun fixations? Read any Irish folklore and find faeries, pixies, banshees...a myriad of magical people. Why did America pick the leprechaun? As an Irish citizen , I get so enraged on St.Pats with people who think they KNOW Ireland cos their Great-Grandfather fled there 150 years ago and they are wearing a ridiculous hat.
Dun do bheal, amadan!


Thank you for your insight! I was musing over the same thoughts yesterday. I didn't read all of the comments. Thus, sorry if I am repeating this, but I wanted to say St. Patrick's Day should be about the man St. Patrick. Simple as that. Where did we get the notion that it was about Irish heritage? Gobs of Irish folk are Protestant or ascribe to other religious beliefs. What interest should they have in remembering the life of a Roman Catholic saint?


i had someone call to ask if my place of employment would be open tuesday, because of the holiday. the holiday. st. patrick's day??! "sir, that's not a real holiday."


I'm trying to do my bit to address the Paddywhackery and just plain ignorance omnipresent in the US... see facebook group


I'm trying to do my bit to address the Paddywhackery and just plain ignorance omnipresent in the US... see facebook group

sorry, here


As one of Irish heritage (and an aficionado of the culture) I am deeply offended that you left Irish butter off the list of Irish things that are good, because it should have been right at the top.


it the same as every other holiday, the mass market got involved and look what took over. You can't sell Jesus on a cross as easy as cute fuzzy bunny with easter eggs. Green beer sells, everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's day

Suraj Menon

Hahaha I agree, Smallpox was an awful disease

Jim Menendez

I for one do not join in to celebrate St Patrick's Day. I am not Irish and feel no particular affinity to Ireland.

Michael, you claim that no else outside the Puerto Rican community celebrates Puerto Rican Day. That's not entirely true but a reason I believe it's not more widely celebrated is because Puerto Ricans are not white.

In the next 50-100 years when the white population of america becomes the minority, the cultural bias towards 'white' holidays such as St Patrick's Day will decrease and Latin based festival holidays will increase. I'll drink a beer to that!


Back when I lived in NYC, I used to scurry home as soon as I left work on St. Patrick's Day to avoid the drunk businessmen and the vomit on the sidewalks. No fond memories there! Now I live in Los Angeles, where St. Paddy's Day is not a big deal....I saw an occasional green sweater or "Kiss Me, I'm Irish" button, but no upchuck on the sidewalks or drunken fools staggering around the streets. No, here Cinco de Mayo reigns, but even that carousing doesn't compare to what I saw in Manhattan.


I'm of Irish descent (and Native American, whoo-hoo!), too, and, boy, do I hate St. Patrick's Day. Particularly the corned beef and cabbage crap my mom used to force down our throats as children. The way it's celebrated is pretty offensive and annoying. And since the Red Sox won a World Series, Irish-Americans really have nothing to drink about anymore.


I didn't know what St. Patrick's Day was until I moved from Texas to Chicago. It's a bit ridiculous, but, if you enjoy drinking like I do, it's a blast. I know you don't drink too much, but that's because you're oldish and dickish.


I just lol'ed. Maybe I shouldn't read your stuff at the office, I'm getting strange looks.


St.Patrick's Day was actually created to honor St.Patrick (duh) who drove the snakes from Ireland. As a full-blooded Irish American, I abhor March 17th for the thing it's become, but I still love what it used to be.I celebrate it with my family and we don't drink any stupid green beer.


As an actual full on irish person, living in ireland , there is no other people in the world i hate than Americans claiming there irish because there great great great great whatever was irish back in the stone age. Also, for irish people its not an excuse to drink because we dont need one, unlike americans we know how to drink, and dont check outselfs into 'rehab' if we smell a pint like lol, and also really americans shouldnt celebrate it..ye actualy have a better parade and stuff than the one in dublin...stop hogging everything!!
and readin angles ashes does not mean that you are now an expert on irish sociology haha..
Paddys(not pattys) day rules.. even though i doubt ST.Patrick was even a real person haha


If the Irish people do not want their heritage to be celebrated in such a manner, then maybe they should stop provoking the above activities- they are the first to pride themselves on being alcoholics, and are the first ones on the streets with their bagpipes in one hand and a drink in the other. When they have stopped downgrading themselves then maybe the rest of the American culture will cease to do the same. In addition, when the Irish have ended their discrimination against each other (Irish natives are the first to tell an Irish American that they are not Irish), and celebrate their heritage as a whole, then maybe they will gain more recognition and respect for all the things which you have described. You will notice that the Jewish, Latin, and Italian communities are respected, recognized, and have a huge presence and influence on the American country. Why? Because they work hard everyday to stay together, keep their culture alive, and their heritage something to pride themselves on (exactly as you put it- The Puerto Rican day is limited to them; a day to unite the natives with the rest of the puerto rican community in nyc. It is also a day to celebrate their history and everything that has made them what they are today). So when the Irish have stopped advertising their alcoholism, their drunken brawls,etc... then maybe and hopefully the day will come where St. Patty's Day can be a day to celebrate the beautiful irish culture.
PS- Everything I say is not to insult the Irish, but has been told to me by Irish people themselves.

Rollie Kemmore

Jews are money grubbers?

Is that a Roman Catholic belief?

I don't think Jews feel they are that...

I think it is a gentile accusation against Jews...to excuse the 2000 years of persecution...

I don't see Jews as that...sorry...

Irish Symbols

I care to attempt to solve because if there is one thing I like less than St. Patrick’s Day it is being beaten by cross-dressing Irish cops.

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