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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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lighten up

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