Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy Stereotype Day!

This is the day where all of the people of Irish descent, people who are married to people of Irish descent, people who have heard of Ireland, and just plain alcoholics put on their green "Kiss me I'm Irish!" tee shirt, and bend a few elbows in salute to the great Irish tradition of mixing politics, religion, and alcohol.  Since I live in Kentucky, I can tell you that these traditions run strong through the American spirit.

I'm of a pretty mixed mixed ethnic heritage, but have more than a few drops of Irish blood in me.  As a kid, I found it interesting to learn about the national holidays of my ancestors:

Irish - March 17 - St. Patrick's Day - A day to look back at an island nation that most of our ancestors couldn't wait to leave.  A religious holiday in Ireland, but Americans make up for that by debauching themselves in ways that would make Sodom and Gemorrah blush.  Seriously, the Brazilians during Carnival have nothing on a a bunch of "Irishmen" in Boston or Chicago.
Norwegian - July 29 - St. Olaf's Day - Celebrated with a hearty meal of pickled beets, pickled onions, pickled fish, and potatoes.  Quietly wash all of this down with about half a bottle of Akavit and a few cans of PBR, then stare morosely at the great plains out your back door, which still seem cold in late July.

German - Late September - Oktoberfest - A rollicking good time to taste all the beers of the world, eat wonderful sausages and roast chicken, fling heavy glass beer mugs at strangers during a brawl, and remember the good old days when invading Poland and France was the national pastime.

French Canadian - June 24 - National Holiday of Quebec - A great day to drink a little wine, make a few political speeches about an occupation that's been happening since the 1760's, and in general get mad because your country has the audacity to allow English to be spoken.

Scottish - December 31 - Hogmanay - While the rest of the world celebrates the year that's passing and the year yet to come, the Scots are cleaning out their houses, singing Robert Burns songs badly, drinking the sludge from the bottom of the whiskey barrel, and lighting their torches.  On the other hand, those last two might just be what you do for fun on a Saturday night in Glasgow.

In all seriousness, I feel more than a little blessed that my ancestors, no matter where they came from, had the courage to decide that the place where their ancestors had lived for centuries wasn't good enough.  It takes real guts to get on a boat with what little you can carry and head off to another continent where few speak your language and you have no promise of prosperity.

So when you're drowning the shamrock this evening, remember that our immigrant ancestors gave up a lot to come here and make a better life for themselves and their descendents. 


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