On Wednesday, class attendance will be slightly smaller than average. The number of Guinness, Harp, Smithwick’s, Jameson, Bailey’s and Magners consumed will be much higher than usual. Everyone dons their green shirts, and leaves their orange shirts to the side. Finally, a very small group of people will attend mass.
Saint Patrick’s Day in the states is as commercial as a holiday gets. It has become a day, for better or for worse, where “Everyone Is Irish.” That means everyone believes they can drink a lot more than they should.
In the U.S., we have a tendency to take other countries’ holidays and make them our drinking affairs. In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is much more like the 4th of July is for the United States. It is a day in which people attend mass, spend time with their family and simply enjoy a day off.
It seems the large majority of those in America participate in the holiday simply to race to see who can be drunk before 10 a.m. or to continue their drunken stupor from the night before. The holiday has been perverted to become the epitome of every Irish stereotype rolled into one 24-hour affair. From the stereotype that the Irish drink, many also stereotype that the Irish are quick to anger, and people on St. Patrick’s Day use the excuse of being Irish to get away with everything.
Where Did These Stereotypes Come From?
The English used Irish stereotypes to oppress the Irish. When the Irish started coming to America, both Nativists and Irish Protestants began to use the same stereotypes to oppress the Irish in the U.S.
This is not to say that those early Irish immigrants did not embody some of the stereotypes that were placed on them. In fact, every immigrant group faced these stereotypes at one point in time. These stereotypes, however, stayed with the Irish as they continued to progress socially. As the Irish entered new fields like politics, they became accused of the same corruption of every other racial group. When the Irish became successful in a new area, they were constantly judged by those they had displaced.
Moving Past The Stereotype
While the prevalent drunk stereotype is often used as a fun excuse to drink more than one would, the Irish are the only group to maintain such a negative stereotype that is publicly accepted.
While many other immigrant groups have had stereotypes placed on them before, none have been as negative or stuck so long as that of the Irish. Looking at Italian-Americans, the most negative stereotype which has been placed upon them is that of mob association, which became glorified by Hollywood with such movies as the “Godfather.”
This does not mean however that people should not celebrate the holiday without a beer in hand. This St. Patrick’s Day, while you raise a glass and say ‘Slàinte’ with your mates, remember that just because you’re Irish, it doesn’t mean you can drink a lot.