Saturday, March 17, 2012

Reclaiming St. Patrick's Day

My Irish grandparents, Pete and Dorothy Wade
Last Saturday, as I drove into the city to meet friends, I saw the telltale signs—yellow school buses, people staggering through traffic, shamrock Mardi Gras beads, kelly green shirts. I am proud to be Irish, but I didn’t think, “Great! A celebration of my heritage.” No, I thought, “Crap. There are going to be drunks everywhere.”

Now, I like a Guinness as much as anyone, but why is it that St. Patrick’s Day and Irish heritage celebrations bring out the worst of Irish culture—the annoying drunk? Maybe we just find what we look for—good or bad. So this morning I reminded myself that I can’t control what other people do or think. What I can do is choose how I want to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

So I put on green, including my Grandmom’s Claddagh pin. I visited some friends, called my mom, appreciated the blooming daffodils. With my new attitude, I saw people of all colors, wearing green, completely sober, and allowed that to warm my Irish heart. Maybe tonight I’ll make Grandmom’s roast beef dinner, eat some Irish potatoes, and listen to Blackthorn. Sounds like a party to me.

1 comment:

Chris Brady said...

Julie: As a Colleen myself, I too regret the stereotypical display of the Irish. Not like people I know and love. Your post reminded me of this poem I read yesterday on the NPR site:

Drowning the Shamrock


"Hail glorious Saint Patrick dear saint of our isle
On us thy poor children look down with a smile —"
But I'm not singing hymns and I'm not saying prayers
No, I'm gritting my teeth as I walk down the stairs
And into the street with these louts fiercely drinking
And screeching and lurching, and here's what I'm thinking —
They're using a stereotype, a narrow example,
A fraction, not even a marketing sample
To imitate Ireland, from which they don't come!
So unless that's just stupid, unless it's plain dumb,
All these kids from New Jersey and the five boroughs
And hundreds of cities, all drowning their sorrows,
With bottles and glasses and heads getting broken
(Believe me, just ask the mayor of Hoboken)
All that mindlessness, shouting and getting plain stocious —
That isn't Irish, that's simply atrocious.
I've another word too for it, this one's more stinging
I call it "racism." See, just 'cause you're singing
Some drunken old ballad on Saint Patrick's Day
Does that make you Irish? Oh, no — no way.
Nor does a tee-shirt that asks you to kiss them —
If they never come back I surely won't miss them
Or their beer cans and badges and wild maudlin bawling
And hammered and out of it, bodies all sprawling.

They're not of Joyce or of Yeats, Wilde, or Shaw.
How many Nobel Laureates does Dublin have? Four!
Think of this as you wince through Saint Patrick's guano —
Not every Italian is Tony Soprano.