Sometimes it seems that there’s never anything but tragic news coming out of Derry. I have to remind myself that there are plenty of wonderful things happening in the town I love so well and so many wonderful people who call it home…but yesterday as I sought those out my heart sank yet again. The headlines screamed out the news of a young woman who was killed in the crossfire on the city streets and it broke my heart.
Yes it’s that time of year again. St. Patrick’s Day is upon us and here on the U.S. side of the puddle, it can quickly become a trash fire of epic proportions. This year I’ve decided to improve the easy list I started a few years ago so that we can hand it out to our beer hat-wearing, cheap leprechaun-looking, fake Irish-dancing friends in order to keep them (and us) from acting the fool. Here’s five simple DON’Ts that will make the Wearing of the Green safer and more palatable for everyone, no matter where you live or where you’re from. So in case you missed it the first time around – here we go!
1. Don’t pinch people. It’s rather hard to believe in the age of the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns that anyone still has to be told that aggressively grabbing, touching, or pinching strangers is wrong. However, just in case you thought that rule didn’t apply on St. Patrick’s Day let me remind you that it is still wrong to pinch any part of anyone for any reason without their permission. It will always be wrong to to touch or pinch people in any way without their consent, so keep your little pinchy urges and tiny crab claw fingers to yourself and just say no. Everyone, male or female, with thank you for it.
2. DO. NOT. ORDER. AN. IRISH. CAR. BOMB. Seriously folks, I don’t know how many times I have to say this to people. Nothing personifies ignorance, caricature, and casual cruelty better than walking into an Irish pub and ordering up an Irish Car Bomb. This horrifically named cocktail is American-made and designed to get you very drunk very quickly. It is highly effective but it’s also named after a weapon that has been used to kill and maim literally THOUSANDS of people in the country it’s named after. No one who grew up in Ireland (or knows its history and/or has a deep love for it) can tolerate the obnoxious name for this drink and for many Irish people, it brings up trauma and terrible memories. It is not funny, not appropriate, and not cool for you or your friends to sell or order any drink by that name, and it could get you kicked out of your favorite Irish pub or it could just get you kicked in the face.
That being said, Irish Whiskey, Irish Cream, and Guinness are all very tasty treats. You can order and pay for a glass of each, mix the ingredients yourself, and try a delightful, super-intoxicating elixir. You could make up a new drink special just by calling it something else (it’s also been referred to as the ‘Holy Trinity’ and ‘the Ulster Flip’) or you can just refuse to serve or drink it at all and many Irish people and Irish history fans would thank you for it. You have to be on quite a mission already to give it a whirl but that doesn’t mean you have to be an ignorant douche when you order it at the bar.
3. Don’t misspell the name of the day. If you’re hunting for Irish-themed decor or clothing, choosing a hashtag, or you have some other reason to shorten the name of this holiday, please remember that the correct spelling is P-A-D-D-Y. It’s not St. Patty’s. There are no Ts in the Irish spelling of Padraig, nor any Ts in the abbreviated and shortened version of it. A good friend of mine once said “I always remember to stick with the Double Ds.” We were talking about his taste in women at that time, but the rule applies here just as well. Which brings us to another important rule.
4. Don’t buy into stereotyping or bigotry. If you want to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day good on you but you don’t have to propagate the stereotypes to do it. Pass on anything that conveys the message that Irish people are drunks, fighters, leprechauns, or idiots. Find something that celebrates Ireland’s rich culture instead of something that mocks it. The Irish have fought against these stereotypes for years and buying a T-Shirt that propagates them may seem harmless but it isn’t. The only way companies will ever offer a wider, more celebratory variety of St. Paddy’s Day swag is if their customers quit buying awful, bigoted costumes. Pass on the ‘Kiss me I’m Irish’ stuff too unless you are actively consenting to anyone doing just that. (See #1)
Don’t insult Ireland’s culture while you claim to be celebrating it.
One more thing along this line – when you’re using your outside voice, please realize that no one says “Top o’ the morning” or “Give me my lucky charms” ever and that fake accents of any kind are obnoxious, whether you’re drinking or not. Just keep that lilt in check.
5. Know your history. In Ireland, Saint Patrick (Padraig) is celebrated for “driving the snakes out of Ireland” which is a metaphor for bringing Christianity to the island and systematically erasing its pagan roots. This is a Catholic holiday and how we celebrate it is decidedly NOT. Incidentally, this is also why the color code of the day is green, which is traditionally associated with the Catholic faith in Ireland. You shouldn’t have to wear it on St. Patrick’s Day if you’re not a Catholic but trying to explain that to a million and one drunken Grabby McPinchersons in the room, can be exhausting. (See #1.)
Now I am all for transforming the holiday from a religious one to a party and cultural celebration. I’ve no love for the Catholic religion. I personally support the ‘Bring the Snakes Back’ movement but stepping all over anyone’s culture is always messed up and should be avoided whenever possible. It’s easy to ignore the religious origin of St. Patrick’s Day when terrible T-shirts, sparkly shamrocks, green beer, and offensively named drinks are the norm but it is still a quiet, religious day for many. After all, St. Patrick’s Day is smack dab in the middle of Lent, which is a period of time when many Catholics give up things like alcohol and parties. There are plenty of traditional and religious folk in Ireland who rail against the parades and parties that have become decidedly more “Americanized” and secular in various parts of the country. Keep that tidbit particularly in mind if you ever decide to spend the holiday in rural Ireland. In the meantime, it’s always good to know where any holiday begins before celebrating (or reclaiming) it.
And there you have it. Five things you shouldn’t do this year or any other for that matter. Have fun, get wasted, dye your hair green, take the green Mardi-Gras beads out of the closet, go to mass, party all day and all night, sing some rebel songs or do whatever else you were planning to do – just try not to be a complete asshole when you’re doing it. Be sure to think ahead and plan a way home so you don’t hurt yourself or anyone else. Have a blast and remember one simple thing – treating other people and other cultures better every single day makes the world a better place.
Now then. Where’d I put my glittery green lipstick?
I’m just popping on for a minute to link to an amazing article that was written a year ago, but I found only recently. I’ve been struggling with a post that is similar for a few years, but this one says it more succinctly (and with less of a frustrated and horrified tone) than I have been able to. It’s worth a read no matter what side of the puddle you’re on regardless of when it was written, given that right-wing bigotry is still spreading throughout the world. Well done Ms. Markey.
San Francisco’s Bay Area has large Irish and Irish-American contingents and the city has always been seriously connected to Ireland. However, as the Bay Area prices continue to soar and it becomes the most expensive city to live in worldwide, these Irish communities have been pushed out like everyone else. A prime example of that migration came yesterday with the announcement that the bar and restaurant at the city’s United Irish Cultural Center would close in just three weeks.
There are many, many women in Irish history who never get the recognition they deserve for their contributions to it. Anne Devlin may be the most egregious example of that. Her strength and dedication to the Irish cause was truly like no other.
In the civil rights arena, America gets a lot of the press and always has. Many of the worst atrocities and biggest conflicts in the movement happened in the United States, and they continue to happen to this day. Hollywood has made plenty of movies chronicling the American fight for civil rights, including one about the fateful march from Selma in 1965 that raised awareness and inspired equality all over the world, especially in the north of Ireland where another civil rights movement was being born.
Well, I almost made it. I almost made it through the season without posting another one of the pieces I write every single year about the sectarianism and the hatred that fuels the flames of bonfires throughout the north of Ireland annually. I guess I was hoping that it was all going to be fine this year, despite knowing it wouldn’t be. I suppose I thought if I didn’t talk about it, then it wouldn’t make me so angry. It doesn’t work like that though. In fact it might be more infuriating to watch it go all down without commenting – especially when it looks like this marching season buildup has been increasingly worse than those in recent memory.