The not-so-saintly St. Patrick’s Day

March 17 brings on a wave of people wearing green, fake beards and, unfortunately, over-consumption of supposedly “Irish” beverages.

My first memory is at a St. Patrick’s Day parade. I remember sitting on my father’s shoulders with a very smudged painted shamrock decorating my cheek, and being allowed for the first time in my very young life to be as loud as I wanted. My three younger siblings also have fond memories of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Denver.

St. Patrick’s Day is a large part of my life, and in recent years I have been disappointed to witness the originally religious holiday change into something else

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In the eyes of an Irish American person, the American version of the holiday doesn’t necessarily reflect our traditions.

In Ireland, my family celebrates the holiday by going to Mass, then returning home to have a nice family lunch or, if the usually boggy Irish weather permits, a picnic followed by a game of tag, Frisbee or football.

On this side of the Atlantic Ocean, “Irish” people celebrate their heritage by guzzling cheap “Irish” beverages and wearing cheap clothing announcing their supposed Gaelic ancestry. True, there are traditional parties at small pubs that include dancing and music, but the majority of the holiday is celebrated in the United States on the streets among inebriated college students.

Many young women squeeze into outfits considered inappropriate to go to school in. I have one question for them: if it isn’t okay to wear that to school, why is it then considered okay to wear something like that on a day that is supposed to commemorate national pride and religion?

Last year, after witnessing many DUI’s and almost being flashed by a young man, my mother made a proposal that nearly broke my heart:

“Maybe we shouldn’t go downtown on St. Paddie’s anymore—if the kids are going to see that.”

That. People commemorated being Irish by being more rowdy than normal, getting drunk and flirting with strangers, all for the sake of temporarily returning to their original roots. My mother and I had watched in horror as a drunk man stood on the balcony of his apartment building, catcalled us and then attempted to undo the front of his trousers. None of this behavior had anything to do with any specific culture, let alone the Irish. A day that was so important to my family had morphed into a day that people could behave inappropriately because it was considered socially acceptable. It seemed to me as if people had taken a bunch of undesirable characteristics and stuck it onto Ireland, which angers me as it seems like a type of racism that everyone is okay with.

To an Irish American who has grown up in two different cultures, it seems as if Americans think of the Irish as people who fight, get drunk and have a lot of babies. They never stop to consider that people as supposedly corrupt as the latter would ever be able to function, let alone help the United States of America become the amazing country that it is today.

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