By Séamus Conaty
Being born and bred (and buttered) in Dublin, I will not attempt to debunk any myths regarding the stereotype that Irish people drink too much. We do. This is not because we have an inherent love for what smart people call C2H5OH. What we have is an inherent love for socializing, and this happens in pubs. Our fondness for the juice is a bi-product of our necessity for chat. You will rarely (if ever) see Irish people drinking with the explicit intention of getting rat-arsed. It just happens, like shit.
When I was growing up, St. Patrick’s Day was not unlike Canadian Thanksgiving. Until the early 1980s, pubs in Ireland were actually closed on St. Patrick’s Day. There was little or no alcohol consumed—it was like a day off from alcohol. One went to mass in the morning, had a nice meal with one’s family, went into the city to watch the parade, and then threw stones at Protestants. (Ok, we didn’t throw stones at Protestants, we actually all get along quite well despite what the newspapers would have you believe.) Anyway, I loved it. We used to have great fun mocking the Yanks that had made the 5,000 kilometre trip to the Vaterland for a relatively low key family affair where they were reminded that, no, they were not Irish, they were Yanks, and should go live with all the nasty shit they’ve done. Rather than being a phony celebration of all things green, it was a religious celebration of our most famous patron saint. (Tip: he’s not our only one. Having several patron saints is our bonus prize for tolerating a millennium of molestation, which is a delightful segway into the relatively kiddie-diddler-free land of the maple leaf.)
I moved to Toronto in 1998. Following my diasporic trail like a fly to shite, I ended up working in an Irish pub for a few years. I loved it! I met great people and earned lots of cash, which I spent on booze, drugs and guitars. As March rolled near, I first found the Christmas-like hype around my national holiday rather flattering. But when March 17th arrived, fuck me: my Thanksgiving was a complete and utter blatant pissfest. The worst of all pissfests! Premeditated, plastic, phoney and pathetic (nice alliteration there).
It made me angry. I was angry that I, the Irish one, was working and not allowed to take a day off because I had to be there like some sort of green gimp while everyone else got sloshed and asked me to say things like “where’s me lucky charms?” I was angry that the whole day was completely bastardized, butchered and blighted (pretty good alliteration again there actually).
This resentment stayed with me, rearing its ugly little green head every year. Signs would go up on cheap blackboards with green chalk saying “Celebrate St Patty’s day with us!” Patty! Really? Patty??? Are you fucking joking???? That is either an old WASPy woman’s name or a delightful Jamaican pastry, not Ireland’s main man. Guinness, Alexander Keith’s and whoever else wanted to cash in would erect cheap plastic bunting and the green beer would flow. I dreaded it, and would always stick to my rituals of childhood (although, as an adult, members of the clergy no longer found me attractive).
In 2010, I found myself back in Dublin for the big day. I was looking forward to it. Ireland had changed a lot in the 12 years I was gone: we got rich! Fuck yeah! We ate like Americans, got fat, still drank a lot, and drove posh cars (we are currently poorer than dirt again, but there were seven solid years there where we thought were Conrad B’s peeps). I was primed for my Dublin St. Patrick’s Day.
I didn’t bother with the mass part (I have a bit of an axe to grind there, you may have noticed) and we didn’t have a family meal, since after the seven siblings grew up and left, my parents got divorced (it has been legal since 1996 after all!). So my good self and a similarly melancholic friend went into the city to watch the parade.
I don’t think I have ever written “OMG” until now, but Oh-eM-fucking-Gee, it was abhorrent. Basically, Ireland has discarded its nice little religious holiday and imported some North American version, from the green beer and leprechauns to the Chinese-made plastic green shite and pools of vomit everywhere. This revelation shocked me. I have no idea why, since the same thing happened with Halloween and Christmas, where we traded perfectly lovely holidays for deranged commercial imports. But it was shocking. Ireland now wholeheartedly embraces the primary international stereotype around the Irish.
I have no problem with alcohol, I love the stuff. I completely agree that most Irish people are pissheads. Yet for whatever reason, I have a problem with wholesale societal alcohol abuse on St Patrick’s Day. Pick another fucking day, there are lots. The mainstream celebration of one nation’s stereotype on their national holiday is a bit much.
Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh!
Happy St Patrick’s Day to you all!
Séamus Conaty is not an angry bastard. He’s actually fucking delightful.