Tag Archives: St Patrick’s Day

The luck of the Irish

Now, before I start, I need you to know something: I have nothing against a good celebration. I am, after all, the current holder of the South London All-Comers record for Most Wine Glasses Inadvertently Smashed On A Good Friend’s Floor In One Night, a record I’ve held since New Year’s Eve 2002. And I’ve forgotten more summer bank holidays than most of you have had hot dinners, thanks to a predilection for the occasional babycham and lemonade.

Put simply, give me a poor excuse to party, and I will rip your arm off and swing it around my head like a spring break reveller with an eighteen year old’s thong in his hand.

But you have to draw the line somewhere. And for me, that line stops right before St Patrick’s Day.

Clearly I’m getting more cantankerous as I grow older. Last year, St Patrick’s Day seemed remarkable, but not annoying. Twelve months on, and I’ve crossed to the dark side.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with the Irish (or their close descendants) celebrating their patron saint’s day. But yesterday New York was jam packed to the gills with people wearing emerald green clothing, and buskers playing fiddle-dee-dee music on violins that were last tuned when Nixon was in power. If I heard one more person say something like “top o’ the morning to you” in a voice that makes Dick Van Dyke and Don Cheadle seem like accent experts, I may have been forced into using shamrocks for something that nature certainly never intended.

The fact is that most of the drunken party-goers heading back towards Bay Ridge at about 7 o’clock last night have probably never even met someone from Ireland, let alone have any Irish family background. And that’s despite the fact that 40 million Americans claimed Irish ancestry in the last census.

Let’s face it, those jester-hatted folk throwing up in the gutter probably don’t even know that St Patrick’s Day is a celebration of all things Irish, and the rest of them almost certainly couldn’t point out Ireland on a map of the world. That may be something to do with the amount of Guinness they’ve poured down their collective necks over the last twelve hours, admittedly, but that’s hardly the point.

The strange thing is that I was asked on numerous occasions why I wasn’t wearing green yesterday. I tried to explain that it’s because I’m not Irish, but I just got a slightly quizzical look that suggests the person can I hear that I’m speaking English but is incapable of understanding the words coming out of my mouth.

I’m thinking of finding out when Canada Day takes place, and then going out into the city dressed as a lumberjack and tutting in the general direction of anybody not dressed in red and white.

I’m not eating caribou though, and you can’t make me.

Green with envy

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.