st patrick's dayAre you Irish today?  It occurred to me that for a nation so worked up about immigration, this is the one day every year when Americans want to co-opt another nationality.

It’s come down to what Americans view as National Drinking Day. My grandmother was Irish and not pleased by the way our nation celebrates St. Patrick’s Day. I had to hold her back so she wouldn’t punch out every person that approached her wearing a Kiss Me…I’m Irish tee-shirt.

In the United States, it’s customary to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day. But in Ireland the color was long considered to be unlucky, says Bridget Haggerty, author of The Traditional Irish Wedding and the Irish Culture and Customs website.

As Haggerty explains, Irish folklore holds that green is the favorite color of the Good People (the proper name for faeries). They are likely to steal people, especially children, who wear too much of the color.

Fact is, there are more Irish-Americans than Irish.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 34 million United States residents claim Irish ancestry, or nearly ten times the entire population of Ireland today, which stands at 3.9 million. Among U.S. ethnic groups, the number of Irish-Americans in the U.S. is second only to the number of German-Americans.

In the yesteryear of Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day began with a trip to church, followed by a feast with family. By law, pubs in Ireland were closed on St. Patrick’s Day, a national religious holiday, as recently as the 1970s.

By then, the country had figured out that the popularity of St. Patrick’s Day was a good way to boost spring tourism. So the U.S. tradition of St. Patrick’s Day parades, packed pubs, and green silliness has invaded Ireland with full force.

Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Day parade is little more than 75 years old and typically draws 400,000 spectators. Contrast that to New York’s parade that draws about 3 million viewers.

But I always think of my grandma on St. Patrick’s Day and her embarrassment over a long-held stereotype of the Irish. I giggle as I remember her telling me that not all Irish men are prone to drunken and brawling behavior. And that the obligatory St. Patrick’s Day tee-shirt isn’t meant to be the garment of Puking Asshole Idiot.

st patI do heed her advice and stay out of the bars and off the streets because it seems that Irish or not, it’s a day where folks slam back green beer, stuff themselves sick on corned beef and cabbage, and deposit all of that behind a bush or in the middle of the street… shamelessly. Where’s The Justice… in seeing a guy draped in an Irish flag who is peeing on the curb? Chances are he’s not Irish… he’s just a pig.[subscribe2]


  1. I love this post! I am always being called on the carpet for not celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. I know my ancestry as Irish gong back to Conn of the Hundred Battles. I find it a useless exercise in conceit to announce my heritage. I usually post something about the “holiday” where the world remembers a saint that, if history remembered it correctly, was actually a British slave who drove out the snakes from a country that have n indigenous reptiles of that genus. You took care of that for me this year. Good for you!

  2. I forgot it was St. Patrick’s Day until I saw a woman at the grocery store this morning wearing a green tutu over her bluejeans. Of course, considering some of the “costumes” I see around town on a daily basis, maybe that’s her usual garb!
    Thanks for sharing your grandmother’s take on the holiday–and yours too. I have to agree with you both.

  3. There’s no celebration of St. Patricks day in Switzerland, and I don’t have any Irish roots, but I like reading about it and I like your blog post in particular. 🙂

  4. Great blog, Jacqueline, full of energy. I’m visiting lots of blogs at the moment to get ideas for improving my own. Yours is definitely one I’m going to watching.

  5. I will admit I saw an iguana on a man in green, two men in mini skirts with green tube tops (constantly being pulled up as they slid down their flat hairy chests) dogs being paraded with boas and had to avoid way too many baby strollers at the Park Circle St. Patty’s street party. Never saw any green beer!

  6. Ha, ha, ho, ho… Thinking back to my Chicago days, do believe St. Patty’s was my first-ever upside down margarita experience… But as for Chicago, and the Irish and big business and a city lousy with green and stupid tee-shirts on that dreaded day (hey, I’m Sicilian) — think it was said best in The Fugitive (yes, the Tommy Lee Jones/Harrison Ford edition):

    “If they can dye the river green today, why can’t they dye it blue the other 364 days of the year?” — Marshal Biggs (Daniel Roebuck).

    • Hilarious quote! Hahaha! Yeah, I think my grandmother saw all the bad behavior as a disservice to the Irish… a way to prolong the myth that Irish are drunkards. Meantime, dear old granny, whom I loved beyond all, had her vodka and diet 7-up every night 🙂

  7. I guess St. Patty’s Day is a great opportunity for some businesses to make money–whether it’s Halmark or the local pubs–but it’s sad that it is at the expense of the true Irish culture. St. Patty’s Day? Appears I am a true American…I should give St. Patrick the respect he deserves and not use a nickname that assumes we go way back. Thanks for making me think about this.

  8. In Cincinnati, Ohio, we have many folks born and raised in Ireland and England along with the Irish-Americans. The Hibernians organization , made up of mostly Irish Catholics, organize a more humble parade with local Irish dancers and local favorites. It would never compete with New York. However, the local celebration that goes on all day around town with beer and corned beef and Irish music brings a welcomed light hearted atmosphere to our neighborhoods. You see old friends and neighbors with a huge smile on their faces. Yes, it maybe the beer or the Irish whiskey at hand but I like to think we are honoring the Irish. I’ll be having a bit of Irish cheer today myself.

  9. Have heard the same things from Irish friends. It’ s about immigrants and how the culture of their birthplace fades, morphs and changes, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. I am Italian, and never associated with the Italian-American experience or red sauce, gravy and Jersey Shore and my nephews hate that program and the idea of Guido. They prefer the Italy of the Renaissance and Enrico Fermi, et. al. lolol And my family is incensed by the idea of the Mafia, etc. They would have been rats and snitches. So, I guess that is the way…with many. (My Chinese friend feels the same about her culture…the Chinatown celebration of the Chinese New Year, and Chinese – American take-out (it’s not Chinese.)

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