Americans love a bit of excitement. Whether it’s revelling in the downfall of a governor who keeps his brains in his Calvin Kleins, or gathering in bars and homes to watch the ‘world championship’ of a game basically only played by their fellow countrymen, no fuss is too great for the ticker tape-toting people of the United States.
Indeed, such is their dedication to a-whooping and a-hollering that Americans appear to have taken to appropriating the celebrations of other countries in a bid to satisfy their partylust. And let’s face it, there’s nothing that certain Americans love more than appropriating things from other countries.
So today is St Patrick’s Day, and such is the level of green hysteria that seems to have seized New York City that you’d swear that Mayor Bloomberg had promised a free pint of Guinness to anyone sporting a green shirt, tie or giant foam finger. The food hall downstairs from my office was festooned with green and orange balloons, while the bakery attempted to palm off green bagels on me rather than my normal wholewheat everything favourite. In the office, everybody wished each other a happy “St. Paddy’s Day”, while the newspapers are full of shamrock-laden articles on green beer and ‘Oirish’ celebrations.
The strange thing is, I’ve got pretty immediate Irish blood in my family, have lived across the water from Ireland all my life, and have even spent a St Patrick’s Day in Dublin (admittedly one that was effectively cancelled after an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in cattle), and yet I’ve never seen people take the day as seriously as they do here.
I guess it’s not surprising, given that the last US census revealed that 34.9 million Americans claim Irish ancestry – that’s nine times as many people as actually live in Ireland itself. But the same census claimed that there are about 35.3 million people of Hispanic extraction in the US, and I don’t see much of a celebration for them. Even July 4th doesn’t exactly have the same unmitigated enthusiasm associated with it that most New Yorkers seem to have for March 17th.
Happy though they may be to steal Ireland’s national day, most Americans seem reluctant to purloin any national day from the United Kingdom. There’s no walking round with giant daffodils on March 1 for St David’s Day, and no tartan-clad buildings around St Andrew’s Day. And I’m sure some people get dressed up in traditional English costume (Hackett t-shirts and Burberry jackets) on St George’s Day, but where’s the re-enactment of Georgie’s slaying of the dragon when you need it?
Personally, I think it’s time to launch a new celebratory day. After all, if New York’s the melting pot that everybody says it is, there’s got to be a chance that “I’m Not An American But I Really Fancy A Pint Day” could take off.
I can almost hear Hallmark’s designers working on a new range of dedicated cards even as I write.