9 posts

Aunty Milk’s Guide to St Patrick’s Day Etiquette

St Paddy’s Day is a funny thing. I won’t even tackle what ‘being Irish’ means because it is an impossible subject.   However – suffice to say – on March 17th, being Irish means wearing green, saying ‘yee’ instead of ‘you’, ‘tis’ instead of ‘this’, drinking copious amounts of (green) alcohol and asking people to kiss you.   Apparently.   Just look at Kittay O’Noes here.   Authenticity is out the window.  This is okay I suppose and kinda nice in a way – because everyone celebrates Irish culture all over the world.

I know a lot of this article will be super-obvious to polite, cosmopolitan people (which I assume make up the majority of Crasstalkers)  – but I speak from experience.  These issues crop up. People can be very generous to the native Celts but it can be overwhelming.   So let’s make things easy for both sides …

Don’t call it ST PATTY’S DAY.  Patty is a girl’s name.  She is a character in Peanuts.  Paddy is the abbreviation for Patrick.

Do be glad you aren’t alone.  The Irish historically sowed their oats. Colin Farrell continues this trend as we speak.  Therefore every other person across the planet appears to have an Irish ancestor or friend.  Heal the world.  Michael would have wanted that.

Do be aware that to most of the world – Irish people come from Ireland.  This is whom I mean when I say “Irish”.   I know American cultural dialogue about heritages is mostly internal.  It is easy to omit the clarifying “Irish-suffix”.  But when speaking to someone from Ireland; include it as a courtesy

Don’t spend too much time talking about dead people from 150 years ago.  Yes I’m looking at you – Conan O’Brien.  Same goes for all those old ‘granny proverbs’ that are apparently ‘Irish’ but are mostly found on tea towels or t-shirts.  They are probably all made up bollocks anyway.

Do show an interest in modern Ireland. Family lore is interesting but only takes you so far with strangers.    Ireland is a very pragmatic country and only really foreigners are sentimental about it.   The weather keeps you down to earth anyway.  Ask questions. Be honest if you don’t know enough.  It will help break the ice and take you a lot further than nostalgia.

Don’t go on about personal traits you consider “Irish” (e.g.  looks, physical features or personality traits).  People from Ireland and elsewhere may not see it the same.  You may look like something completely different to them.  And what is ‘Irish looking’ anyway? Julianna Margulies could pass very easily for a local in Dublin or Galway but she isn’t at all.   Irish-Americans come in many forms too – and often don’t look remotely ‘Irish’.   It just doesn’t matter anymore.

Do be complimentary about accents in a subtle fashion.  You want to hear some?  Try some Fassbender. But gushing and asking people to say things for your amusement is too much. Just sit back and listen.  People will talk more if they think they aren’t on show.   Nobody wants to be a performing monkey.  You may think they have lovely hair too – but would you mention it every 5 minutes?

Don’t for the love of St Bono –mimic a person’s voice or do your own impression without specific prompting.  This is only funny if you know the person well! Most people will smile nicely and nod – others may tell you to fuck off.  You don’t want that.  But it happens to people with accents all the time.  Dylan explains – although he seems to confuse “English” with “Ray Winstone” or some weird drunk person from London whom I don’t recognize.  Believe me – it isn’t just the English.

Don’t approach native people with the saying “Top O’ The Morning”, “Begorrah” and any other stupid phrases nobody uses.  It is like going up to Salma Hayek and saying ‘ay ay ay arrrrrrrriba’ whilst making gun noises.  We will resign these words to the box marked ARSEBISCUITS.

Don’t bear grudges on St Paddy’s Day.  The holiday is not about that.   This includes having a swipe at other ethnicities within your country. Being positive about Irish identity is not the same as being negative about anyone else.  Remember the 19th century was shitty for many people – not just in the Irish diaspora.   And none of us were actually there to remember these hard times.

Don’t get your cultural and historical knowledge from stupid stereotypes or slushy ballads.  Know your stuff or other people will call you on it. Particularly with politics. Relations between both UK and Ireland are probably more cordial now than ever before. Northern Ireland has had it’s own assembly for some time and is basically self-governed in a lot of ways. The terrorist ceasefire holds.   Nobody wants the violence back.

Do be aware of recent historic upsets and developments.  Unfortunately, bombs don’t recognise nationalities and many innocent people were killed, maimed or scarred for life during the last forty years.   Remember most of the money for terrorism came from misguided or hateful people – and a lot from overseas like Mr Libya.  Maybe even from your country – victims are still waiting for apologies from many quarters.  Something to think about if anyone asks you do you to drink a hilarious cocktail called an ‘Irish car bomb’.  The Omagh bomb was only in 1998.   It’s not a fucking joke to many.   ‘Black and Tan’ is another one.  If you think that is being over-sensitive, then you are probably very far away from the reality.  Lucky you.

crazy old dudeDon’t fall for the ‘Greenface’ – meaning leprechaun jokes and imagery.   Same for hilarious mascots and stereotypes you see at sports games or elsewhere like on TV shows.  The view that Irish women are flame-haired temptress ‘colleens’ (ugh – like ‘Jewess’ that term seriously has to go away) has more to do with Maureen O’Hara than anyone else.  People from Scotland and some parts of Scandinavia are just as likely to be redheads.   These negative images of Irish people derive from nasty 19th century pro-Eugenics propaganda that ridiculed the Irish as the “white negro”.   They were meant to be degrading. So keep the shamrock-tattoo fakery silly hats to a minimum.  Or you must then to go to the max – like yer man here.  Work it – or leave it.

Do become familiar with Irish comedy and TV and films and music.  Know that faux-Celtic rock bands like Dropkick Murphys (who aren’t even Irish-Americans) and Flogging Molly are basically a joke in Ireland.  Nothing wrong with liking such music – just don’t assume Irish people do.  Modern Ireland has a greater reverence for American music, in fact. Hip-hop, soul, R&B and rockabilly (see Imelda-May) are very popular.  The film The Commitments summed up this feeling very much.   And of course there is – Van the man.

Do make some new friends!  Because Irish passport holders are universal – especially in these times of economic heartbreak – there is a strong chance that you might bump into an actual home-world Celt during celebrations.  Hopefully, it will be someone cute with an accent that turns you to jelly.   Or even something more!    Just relax and enjoy the craic.