The remarkably short life of John Keegan Casey was full of lyrical rebellion and inspiring, seditious poetry. His pen was at least as dangerous as the sword, if not more so and it made him a warrior and a target at a remarkably young age. His best known work is “The Rising of the Moon“, which he reportedly penned at the tender age of just fifteen and it is still in heavy rotation to this day.
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.
Josephine McGowan was one of the many women who participated in Ireland’s struggle for freedom. She was a member of the Inghinidhe na hEireann branch of Cumann na mBan and was stationed at the Marrowbone Lane garrison during the 1916 Easter Rising. She was one of twenty-five women who reported for duty and according to one witness statement, Marrowbone seemed to have more women than men at the beginning of the fight. Some of the women vanished throughout the week but Josephine stayed until the very end.
April 29th looms ever closer and the Centenary celebration truly comes to a close…at least until May when the executed leaders will be remembered a hundred years after they were killed. The surrender was originally offered on behalf of the revolution by Elizabeth O’Farrell, but the English would not accept it from a woman. She returned with Patrick Pearse and stood at his side when he offered it himself to “prevent the further slaughter of the civilian population and in the hope of saving our followers, now hopelessly surrounded and outnumbered”. Some argue that it was no surrender at all, but rather a pause to prevent the loss of innocent life because the leaders knew the fight for Irish freedom would continue, with or without them. Others couldn’t bear the thought of standing down for anything, even if their leaders were asking them to. The end to the Easter Rising is a fact, but were the rebels defeated?
That’s a question I’ve been studying for a long, long time and my answer is still yes and no. It’s also for a different post, because this one is about what you can do in Dublin on April 29th to commemorate the close of the battle and to lend your support to those who are still fighting to save one of the most important areas of the city.
On this day, 99 years ago, James Connolly was executed by the English for his role in the Easter Rising of 1916 and his death caused anger to explode all over Ireland. This is not to say that the death of Sean MacDiarmada who was executed on this day as well for the same reasons, was any lesser of a sore point to be mad or upset about, or that any executions before them were either. In fact, the decision to kill the leaders after secret trials still haunts the British to this day. It is only the fact that James Connolly was driven to his death in Kalmainham Gaol by ambulance and shot after being tied to a chair that makes his execution any different from the other leaders.
On this day, January 26th, in 1904, Sean MacBride was born to Maud Gonne and John MacBride in France. He went on to follow in his parents’ Irish Republican footsteps becoming a soldier, politician and the Chief of Staff of the IRA, fulfilling their wishes to have an important and capable son. They agreed on almost nothing else, but they did want their son to believe in and work toward a free Ireland just like they had for most of their lives.
Sean was the apple of his mother’s eye and today would be his 111th birthday, which is hard to imagine when you see this picture, taken when he was 2.
Thomas Ashe was a teacher, a piper, an Irish language enthusiast, a soldier, a devout man of faith and one of the pioneers of the modern Republican Hunger Strike. His life began on this day in 1885.
Margaret Skinnider was a woman who should have died long before she did, but like a cat with nine lives she nearly always landed on her feet. She did not die while learning to shoot weapons and build bombs in her home town of Glasgow. She did not have a fatal accident while smuggling explosives under her hat and detonators under her dress from Scotland to Ireland in 1915. She did not blow herself up while spending many afternoons testing dynamite in the hills around Dublin and she was not killed while acting as a courier between rebel outposts during the Easter Rising of 1916. On the contrary, between delivery missions on her bicycle, she joined the men on a roof over Stephen’s Green with a rifle and took her own deadly aim. She was proud of her sniper abilities and famously said, “More than once I saw the man I aimed at fall.”
When I visited Kilmainham Gaol in December, it was a bit like a pilgrimage for me. I knew that I would be walking through the notorious place I had been reading about for 20 years and that my Irish history knowledge would only be improved by going…but I didn’t really want to. I knew it’d be hard for me as I am a sensitive girl and I left my traveling companions elsewhere in order to do it alone. I was highly emotional, particularly when I visited “Last Words“, the exhibit on the top floor of the prison.
As I left the gaol, I really needed to collect myself. My makeup was runny from tears I had barely held back in the exhibit and my head was full of things I wanted to remember and write down. Most of all, I wanted a cigarette. I crossed the street to have one and to not fall apart in front of a major tourist attraction and found myself surrounded by humanoid, creepy bronze statues whose chests were full of bullet holes. In the split second it took me to put two and two together, I realized 2 things. These were the creepiest statues I had ever seen and I had come to the wrong place to collect myself, as it made me even more emotional and teary.
I don’t know if I like Rowan Gillespie or not. On one hand I believe he’s a genius. On the other, his work hits me in a visceral way that makes me uncomfortable. This is Proclamation, another place I had to add to the Atlas Obscura. It’s getting quite full of Irish places these days….