The day of the Irish

So they say that today, everyone is Irish. One of the things I like about St. Patty’s Day (besides the drinking) is that just about everyone I know takes the opportunity to reveal a faint, yet glorious, genetic root connecting them to the green isle.

Did you know that currently there is a movement to get the holiday nationally recognized as an official one? There’s probably a half a million signatures on some petition somewhere crying out for our elected officials to take action. One of my friends was surprised that I thought it was a ridiculous idea.

Although I carry one of the most Irish last names in the book, I can’t imagine ever making St. Patty’s Day a real holiday.

As I sit here today I can’t honestly tell what significance the day holds. All I really know historically is that it celebrates St. Patrick, a patron saint of Ireland. You know, the guy who drove out all the snakes.

Not finding much historical ground here to justify why it should be an American holiday.

Ah, but my friend pointed out that the historical part of the modern tradition plays a minuscule part in celebrating one’s Irish heritage in honor of the role Irish descendants played in developing American culture.

Blah, blah, blah.

I’m pretty sure a few other cultures might have had a hand in developing America and none of them get a day – certainly not one with the fanfare of today. Not to mention that honoring one ethic heritage over another is a slippery slope, especially when it’s sanctioned by the federal government. And not to offend my Irish brethren, but I’m several generations removed from the ancestral homeland (like most) and I think of myself as an American long before I’d call myself an Irishman.

Besides, if you are recognizing an ethnic holiday, how can you not include the history of the day, which makes me ask what is it we are really celebrating?

So let’s stop pretending and admit what the holiday really means to most people in our society today.

I am proud to be part of such a fierce heritage. Many mark the day to remind themselves of their humble immigrant roots and take pride in the accomplishments of their poverty-stricken but passionate forebears.

People who want to make the day a national holiday see it as a day for the Irish, but if St. Patty’s Day shows me anything, it’s how connected we all are. Like I said, most people can trace their family lines and discover an Irish relative somewhere along the way. That’s the point; hardly any one of us can claim we are totally Irish – we’re just parts of the whole. Our country is a mixed one and the blending of cultures and diversity is at the heart of an American identity. Although it may be a sin, many people hold tremendous pride in their roots, including the Irish.

The real meaning of the day however to those who celebrate with the most potency is drinking. They say God invented liquor so the Irish wouldn’t rule the world and Main Streets across America will be thronged with youth testifying to that proverb.

The stereotype is one who likes a good drink, has a vicious temper and an indomitable free spirit. I like that, but I can’t honestly say that’s how I’d like to identify myself with my Irish heritage – even if it might be true.

All that being said, top of the morning to you, kiss me because I’m Irish, set me up with some dyed beer and let’s sing drinking songs ‘til we’re green in the face. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.

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