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Thoughts on St. Patrick’s Day

Every year Guinness has an online petition seeking to make March 17th a national holiday. It makes sense, since almost every city in the country seems to celebrate the day. Let’s be honest though they aren’t celebrating the accomplishments of the Irish nor their heritage, just their ability and proclivity to drink alcohol.

The virtue of online petitions aside, I am against this petition. Even though I am of Irish heritage I’m realistic about the goal. It shouldn’t be March 17th that should be the national holiday rather it should be March 18th, and it should be named “national hangover day.”

Last year I had class on this day. I didn’t have a single problem other than an usually low attendance. No, what mattered the most was the morning after where I had a class at 9:30am. I think that my experience is shared. Anyone can show up to work on a holiday and if they are planning on celebrating it they will do so afterward. So why not petition that they be allowed to sleep it off the day afterward?

Last Saturday was the “Old Neighborhood Parade” in the city of Buffalo. The Old First Ward, the traditional Irish neighborhood, does a parade that competes with the official parade of the city every year for longer than I can remember. This year was the first year that I actually marched in it, and it was weird.

It was weird because as much as I do consider myself to be of Irish descent, about once a year and whenever it comes up in arguments, it was hard not to feel a certain ethnic pride in being a member of a specific group. This I think is something unique to white Americans: the idea of celebrating an ethnicity of which you don’t speak the language, neither do your parents, nor have you ever visited or have any actual relics from the distant homeland.

The Atlantic Monthly, a few months ago, had an article about the death of white America. One aspect that they focused on was the tendency for young Americans to latch on to relationships that weren’t “white.” Instead, tending to focus on ethnic groups that had been oppressed in the past: such as Italian or Irish. This had to do with the need to be unique whereas being white just meant that the person was descended from those that have been in charge for over 200 years. It made me consider whether or not this was the case with me.

On parade day, that thought was completely exiled from my mind. As I walked behind entries that included the Police Emerald Society, remnants of the various Irish Union Groups, and some of the old prominent families from the neighborhood I felt a sense of pride that had nothing to do with wanting to be different. I suppose sometimes that being a member of a group is essentially a “reward,” even though most members of that group couldn’t name a single solid contribution that the group had made. We’ve already had our president and that’s as far as most people can make it.

St. Patrick’s Day is a fun day and when it’s over the green is usually tucked away for the rest of the year. Some of us, try and bring it out once in awhile, but for the rest of you every time you hoist a Guiness or a shot of whiskey or root for Notre Dame (even though the Cathedral is in France) that group is as part of this country as any other. Maybe we deserve the national holiday, maybe not, but every Callahan, O’whatever, and Mc whoever will probably scream that we do. Cead Mille Falte.

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