Why I Side-Eye St. Patrick’s Day Revelry

Why am I supposed to care about some ancient British dude converting a bunch of people to a religion I have never and will never follow, again?

St. Patrick uses shamrock in an illustrative parable

Its origins are wonky.

Patrick wasn’t even Irish and he didn’t drive any snakes out of anywhere. He was a Roman British missionary hell-bent on converting pagans to Christianity. As a never-Christian atheist whose freedoms are being threatened by modern iterations of men like him, I fail to see why partying is the appropriate response to what we know of him.

Furthermore, anyone who promoted Christianity to the Irish has a lot of explaining to do. The legacy of the Catholic Church in Ireland includes the institutionalization of the most brutal iteration of every form of abuse known to humankind; horrific and rampant sexual abuse is just one part of it.

For a holiday allegedly celebrating Irishness, it seems pretty offensive to the Irish.

The Onion, as usual, is spot-on with its headline: Irish-Americans Gear Up For ‘The Reinforcin’ O’ The Stereotypes’. People can’t even get the name of the holiday right (it’s either “St. Paddy’s Day” or “St. Patrick’s Day”*). Almost totally unquestioned stereotypes about the Irish rule the day in the form of t-shirts (unless you live near Kevin Westley) and bar specials. How is this a celebration of Irish culture? (It isn’t.)

And as tasty as I find the drink (and the cupcakes) that the name represents, “Irish car bombs”? Seriously? The 1990s weren’t that long ago. I’m not yet 30 and yet I remember when people talked about “the conflict in Ireland” in the same breath as “Apartheid” and “the Middle East.”

The social pressure is completely disproportionate to the holiday’s American significance. 

So you’re one of those people who doesn’t think that a holiday’s origins matter to its current iteration. Though I don’t agree with that position, I don’t think it’s the most problematic things in the world.

Where I do take issue is how ridiculously defensive and aggressive people are about a holiday that, origins aside, de facto revolves around a clothing color, copious alcohol consumption, and corned beef. Pinching someone for not wearing a color you think they should be wearing is assault. Ridiculing someone for not wanting to go to a bar to fight with proudly drunk people all for the prize of an overpriced pint of green-colored cheap beer is obnoxious.

As for the corned beef? It’s not my fault my partner is very good at making it.

* Although hell yes I’d celebrate “St. Patty’s Day.” I love burgers. Corned beef patties could be awesome.

Why I Side-Eye St. Patrick’s Day Revelry
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22 thoughts on “Why I Side-Eye St. Patrick’s Day Revelry

  1. 2

    I actually think that the fact that this holiday has become so closely associated with amateurish drunken antics is really harmful. Irish Americans have more inter-generational trauma than many realize, since these days we’re* generally part of the majority. But the enforcing of stereotypes IS actually harmful when one knows that history and how it impacts families. There really ARE differences in the addiction rates among Irish families compared to other families in the US and it’s not a funny joke.

    *My adoptive family is Irish. I may or may not be, who the fuck knows. But culturally I identify with it.

  2. xyz

    I’ll admit it, I’m miffed by the way wild St. Patrick’s Day partying is considered normal and accepted while many events that draw a more diverse crowd to public spaces are considered OMG THREATENING AND WEIRD.

    Also, no pinching. please.

  3. 7

    I hate St. Patrick’s Day. I have major personal space issues, and if I don’t wear that stupid color (actually I don’t generally mind wearing green, but it’s the principle), I will be pinched and I look bad for saying I don’t like it (even at work in a so called professional environment). (I also don’t drink so the “upside” really doesn’t affect me.) Such an insignificant holiday but it dictates my clothing for the day out of fear of personal harm. What the hell?

  4. 9

    I’m not really a partier so the “drink lots of beer and be obnoxious” aspect of St. Patrick’s Day doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest. As for it promoting negative stereotypes of the Irish: yeah, definitely. In North America, I don’t really get the impression that there’s widespread bias, conscious or otherwise against the Irish, so I can’t really comment on how harmful these negative stereotypes are in practice, but just knowing the history of anti-Irish racism makes it kind of hard not to be critical.

    On another note, my Irish great grandfather was a teetotaler. He also had to hide his Irish accent when he moved to Canada because of anti-Irish sentiment at the time (though he’d always go back to his Irish accent when he was at home with his family). I remember learning about this part of my family history when I was young, and it always struck me as really messed up.

  5. 10

    oh bugger, is it Guinness day again!?

    I’l be avoiding the pubs of London then, at least until 4:30 when the fighting has finished and the revelers are maudlinly thinking of the ol’ country (Brent, Kentish Town, Kilburn) while staring into their discounted porter.

    The fucked up thing is that this is quite a modern phenomena in the UK and imported from the US not Ireland.

    and whats this corned beef thing, can no one make an Irish stew?

      1. I’ve just done a bit of research and found that American corned beef is different to the UK version so I can see why you might have it with cabbage and potatoes in the same way we have boiled beef.

        You could also call British corned beef “cured” but only after you found out what made it sick in the first place.

  6. 12

    Contrarian that I am, I’ve gotten into the habit of wearing orange on March 17. Depressingly few people know enough to be annoyed.

    Ow. I’d know, and the last time my ancestors lived in Ireland was around the time of the Great Famine.

    Then again, I still remember the old Irish Rovers song ‘The Orange and the Green’:
    “Oh it is the biggest mix-up, that you have ever seen! My father he was Orange and me mother, she was Green.”

  7. 13

    Contrarian that I am, I’ve gotten into the habit of wearing orange on March 17. Depressingly few people know enough to be annoyed.

    Apologies to (Northern) Ireland from the Netherlands.

    But doesn’t wearing orange get you into trouble with the people who do know? Or do they just think that you’re trying to complement the green to create an Irish flag?

  8. 14

    Ah, orange can have a lot of baggage attached due to the attempt to colonise Ireland with scottish and english protestants, and is still very much a contentious issue in ireland. Be sensitive to this, colonization still leaves large ripples in the irish puddle considering how young Ireland is as a republic. You may not even have orange ancestors. Tbh paddy’s day is pretty fecking comercialised and is an excuse for non-irish people and clueless diaspora to get hammered. Hell, I’m quarter irish and even I side-eye the whole ireland=GETTING DRUNK YEAH GUINESS thing is stupid. What is it with my fellow irish decendants and celebrating colonialist buttwhipe missionary day?

  9. 15

    Almost totally unquestioned stereotypes about the Irish rule the day in the form of t-shirts (unless you live near Kevin Westley) and bar specials. How is this a celebration of Irish culture? (It isn’t.)

    I’m Irish and I’m not offended by these stereotypes ; on the contrary I generally find them funny. Nor am I offended if people don’t see it as a celebration of Irish culture. And let’s be honest here, the drunken Irish stereotype is not without some grounding in reality.

    People can’t even get the name of the holiday right (it’s either “St. Paddy’s Day” or “St. Patrick’s Day”*).

    This doesn’t seem like a particularly big issue ? Paddy is just the diminutive form of Patrick, entirely interchangeable and people refer to “Paddy’s Day” here in addition to “St Patrick’s Day”.

    1. 15.1

      People do see it as a celebration of Irish culture, though, with Irish culture reduced to nothing but drunkenness. I’m glad you’re not offended but I think it’s odd that you don’t find some problem with that.

      As for the name, like I said, it’s “Paddy’s” or “Patrick’s”. So many people claiming to celebrate Irish culture by getting hammered on the day call it “St. Patty’s Day”, which I find sad and funny on several levels.

  10. 16

    I guess I just don’t think there’s any great need to celebrate Irish culture or export it; great if people decide to do so, but if not, I’ve no problem with that. Patrick’s Day doesn’t mean much to me ( as you can probably tell, I’m perhaps a bit lacking in some aspects of patriotism ! ), and I haven’t been into any of the parades/celebrations in years. If people want to go out and drink copious amounts of alcohol then fine; what’s not okay though is when/if that leads to violence/destruction of property. The drunken stereotypes don’t really bother me in general, but I do wish people here would curtail their alcohol consumption on health grounds.

    I agree with you with regard to the pinching though, that’s not acceptable (I think that’s more of an American custom though).

  11. 17

    Heina Dadabhoy,

    I think a bunch of people celebrate St. Patrick’s Day the way most American, European and Australian atheists celebrate Christmas. They celebrate it just because its part of the culture, they enjoy doing it, and they don’t really care about its origins or why people originally celebrated it.

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