First and foremost, I’m quite happy to be an Irishman. The main reason being the hospitality with which people of other nationalities treat you once finding out that you’re Irish (my twitter followers being a perfect example of this). However, it’s on days like March 17th each year that makes me cringe; with both embarrassment and anger.
I suppose you’ll be wanting to know why? Of course you will. Well, here’s why.
Drinking. Leprechauns. Top of the mornin’ to ya! Green beer. Guinness. Patty.
You get the idea. One of the greatest stereotypes to have followed the Irish around is that of our culture of drinking. Now, don’t get me wrong. There is a seriously intense drinking culture in this country but we’re not the only one. Many, many countries also like to think of themselves as ‘drinking kings’ for want of a better phrase. Having spent a lot of time in both England and Australia, let me tell you, in the culture of alcohol, they are almost more Irish than the Irish themselves.
But it’s this myth of the drunken Irishman that is thrown around on a day like Paddy’s Day that annoys me. Not that it is being used, but it is being used as a badge of honour! That it is something to be proud of and other nations use this day as a reason to get absolutely shitfaced drunk. This is how we’re seen on the international stage. The worst thing is, it’s mostly true! I hate to admit it, but it is.
Someone is born, let’s drink. Someone’s birthday, let’s drink. It’s the weekend, let’s drink. You’re getting married, let’s drink. You got a promotion, let’s drink. It’s a bank holiday, an extra day of drinking. Someone’s dead, let’s drink. You die, everyone else drinks.
I hate this holiday with such venom I have to question why exactly. I mean, I enjoy drinking. I don’t do it often (ie. every weekend) but when I do drink, I get drunk and I have fun. I guess I just hate that being Irish is seen by other nations as being a drunk. We are so good at so many other things, too. Literature being top of the list in my mind. James Joyce. Samuel Beckett. Oscar Wilde. Seamus Heaney. Bram Stoker. The names of just a few. Why can’t we be seen as a nation of intellects instead of drinkers? I don’t know. I wish I did.
I think perhaps that when this holiday comes around, it puts a magnifying glass on how the rest of the world really sees us and how we see ourselves. The worrying thing is, most people are quite content for this to be the case. They like the idea of being a ‘drinker.’
And finally for my American and Canadian readers mainly. Leprechauns don’t exist; they became extinct in the 1800’s. Nobody outside of a 1950’s hollywood movie about Ireland says ‘Top of the mornin’ to ya.’ Ever! Stop making green beer. It looks stupid. There are hundreds of thousands of Irish people who hate Guinness. I’m one of them. We don’t all drink it.
And to cap it all off. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS ST. PATTY’S DAY!!!!! Patty is a burger of some sort. Paddy is short for Patrick. Not Patty. GRRRRRRRR!!!!!
The worst part is, that as a whole, you’re trapped. Stereotyping is an easy crutch, especially this one. Not too hard to live up to getting tanked on March 17. I feel your pain, J. Fortunately it’s only one day. Someday when I visit, you can be my tour guide and show me the finer parts of your beautiful part of the world.
Agreed! I hate all the stereotypes. I’d like to call it Day of the Irish though. Patrick wasn’t Irish. He was just another foreign intruder, trying to tell we Irish how to live our lives. There were no freakin’ snakes in Ireland. And Patrick was never canonized as a saint. He did, however, die on March 17, so maybe we’re celebrating his death???
I agree with you. And what a great article. Oddly enough (maybe?), I’m one American that doesn’t look at the Irish from a St. Paddy’s Day point of view. Maybe it was my strict Catholic upbringing by nuns who loved St. Patrick, or my later studies into Irish folklore. I’m no scholar, but one can find many truths about cultures that way. I imagine the Irish to be hospital, friendly, bold, brave, hard working and trustworthy. No Irish friend of mine ever turned me away in a time of need while others walked away with their heads down. Anyway, I can relate a little. I am first-generation Polish. Every Casimir Pulaski Day, my father headed to his favorite Chicago bar to have a drink with his buddies. But the Poles are known for drinking anyway. Right? Backyard barbeque. Drink. Baptismal. Hell yes, drink. Catholic communion. Most certainly, drink. Wedding?… What hurts is, according to some non-Polish friends, all male Poles do is drink and cheat on their wives. My peers referred to my dad’s generation of Poles as gigolos and wife beaters. It’s just not true. And many times when days like Pulaski Day came around there were always jokes that I didn’t get. I wonder if it’s like that for not just the Irish and Polish, but others as well. For me, I’m proud to be a Polish-American.
Hey, Wanda. Thanks for the reply. Have to agree, there are a lot of unfair stereotypes out there and it really annoys me, because for the most part, I don’t even closely resemble any of them. Likewise with you and your Polish heritage I presume.
Oh and thanks for the Reblog. I hope you keep reading any future posts I have 🙂
Reblogged this on Wanda S. Paryla and commented:
I like this view and think it can apply to many.
I’m Welsh so i know all about stereotypes; ‘taffy was a Welsh man,taffy was a thief’ being one of the favorites among the English over the border. As for the drinking culture – at least you Irish do it with some style and consider your drinking as a serious job to be done. Over here the most prevalent sight on a Saturday night is drunken hooligans getting into fights, or staggering about and puking in the streets. And you have the consolation of knowing your country produced some of the greatest writers that ever lived, and you’ve got Anne Enright and Sebastian Barry, too. How I envy you. Dylan Thomas is the only great writer that came out of Wales and ironically, as we’re on the subject, drank himself to death. So just think, Jay, things could be worse, you could have been born Welsh!
Ah but then id that wonderful lyrical accent to enjoy 🙂 but I suppose all accents are only appreciated by other nations who wish they had it.
Ah, well, nothing does it for me like the lilt of the Irish brogue!