I was quite peeved with the whole St Patrick’s Day palaver this year, possibly even more than usual.
I’m a terrible Irish person, actually. I don’t like traditional music, I buy sweet potatoes more often than regular ones, and I find the colours of the flag garish and tacky. Every other day of the year I’ll loudly proclaim my nationality, but on March 17th in America if everyone’s jumping on that bandwagon I think I’d rather just jump off.
I’ve put a lot of thought into trying to figure out why this is, and how to explain it to Americans who feel I’m dissing their country’s tradition of celebrating the day, as it has been handed down by generations of emigrants a long time before I showed up with my snobby ideas about how it should be done properly.
The truth is, I don’t like it over there either. I don’t really like to make a big fuss of it. It seems jingoistic, and that’s a word that always went scathingly with “American” in my mind. Little flags and drum majorettes are not something I enjoy no matter what colours they sport, really.
But it is what it is, to coin an Irishism: those who are celebrating their national day, the day of their nation, are sometimes a bit put out when those who are celebrating the day of their heritage start to make it their own.
Irish people are pretty sure that, whatever the concrete shortcomings of our country – and there are many, and we will recount them at length for you – Ireland is in fact the best place in the world to be from, and it’s better to be from it, you yourself right now, than to have forebears who were from it.
As a small country with a big history of emigration, we have family all over the globe, and a reputation, deserved or not, for being friendly and welcoming. Everyone loves Irish people. We lap it up, the worldwide loving of us.
Saints and scholars, pints and poets, the green and the gold and the rain and the mists.
Americans (the nice ones, like all my friends) try very hard not to feel superior to anyone else, because they come from a huge and powerful country and wouldn’t want to look pushy. Germans have the terrible history of World War Two drilled into them lest they ever again decide to put themselves above any other nation. But Ireland, presumably like any other small, formerly colonial, country, has no such qualms. We’re jumping up and down at the back of the classroom with our hand up trying to get your attention, and when we do, we feel very entitled to hang on to it by making all sorts of eejits of ourselves so you don’t forget us.
We’re not a threat to anyone, that’s for sure, so all we can do is delight you with our entertaining ways, whether that’s in music or words or acting or donating to charity or being hilarious or drunk or a hilarious drunk or going out of our way to do a favour for a total stranger.
Anyway, I booked a ticket the other day so in a few weeks I’ll be over to inject myself with a quick shot of sea air and rain, Ireland style. Maybe it’ll make me less ranty.