Learning to love St. Patrick’s Day
Irish in America
I was born to an Irish mother in what I think of as one of the most plastic of places: Orange County, California. I’ll be honest, I come from a maternal family and have been immensely proud to be Irish since the moment I first understood that I was Irish.
Some of you might not know this, but on St. Patrick’s Day in America, everyone – and I mean everyone, fancies themselves to be Irish. It’s obligatory that you wear green all day. You’re highly likely to see a sign that says Happy St. Patty’s Day. And most kids’ lunches have some traces of green food dye for the special day.
Needless to say, I was always proud to actually be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, especially as a smug 8 year old who had already visited the Emerald Isle twice in her short life and whose mother could speak (what I thought to be) fluent Irish.
I always refused to partake in the pinching inflicted on the poor children whose parents didn’t dress them in green from head to toe, and I most certainly corrected my teachers’ misspellings to Paddy’s Day, rolling my little Irish eyes at them.
American in Ireland
Flash forward eleven years to my first St. Patrick’s Day after moving to Dublin. I’d only been here a couple of months, had never spent a day “on the lash,” and somehow didn’t realise the scope of the celebration.
That first year I took an afternoon stroll into the city centre well after the parade finished to find myself surrounded by Americans in leprechaun hats. I followed friends into some touristy bar and spent the evening drinking those single serving bottles of white wine. It wasn’t exactly what you’d call an eventful day because I didn’t really know how spend it.
A year later, I’d learned a few things. First, things first – my dad was visiting from California and I was determined (as a Dubliner) to show him the ropes. We started with Bulmers at 11am, walked through every pub I knew in town and finished gracefully around 9pm. I was determined to keep up, but I’m pretty sure my dad’s recollection of the night differs a bit from mine.
What it’s really about
When I was a kid, I used to jealously guard my own Irishness and wonder why everyone I knew wanted to be a part of my culture so badly. When I first came to live in Ireland, I saw the date as an extension of that American enthusiasm I’d grown up with, and if nothing else – an excuse to get off work and go drinking for the day.
But, after learning what it means to love Dublin, going to college here and beginning my adult life, I see things a bit differently.
Admittedly, I’m always going to be a bit of an outsider. I’ll always have more to learn about my heritage, but that won’t be hard to do because the Irish have embraced me and made me one of their own.
That’s what I think St. Patrick’s Day is all about: the love the rest of the world shares for this special little island we all call home. It’s a celebration of our culture, our art, our beautiful Island and our Celtic heritage.
It gives the rest of the world the chance to feel what it’s like to be Irish, even if it’s just for one day – and I suppose that isn’t such a bad thing after all.
By Katie Espinoza, Fade Street Social