Don’t Kiss Me- I’m Scottish American

Today may very well be the Holiday I most despise.
Now if you don’t live in American culture, you may not know today is St. Patrick’s Day. I say this because this holiday seems to really blossom here, in the land of cultural bastardization I mean the great melting pot.
Don’t get me wrong- I’m all for a good party (or at least, this geeky girl is all for your right to have a good party and for me to stay home with my book).  I’m good with copious amounts of food colouring, if that’s what you’re into (I mean red velvet cake, anyone?).  I even like the sort of community event where there is a marathon, a parade and a street faire all on the same weekend (we don’t live downtown, and Portland has an okay transit train- so what’s there to object to?). 
My problem with St. Patrick’s day is this:

Not everyone is Irish.

I’m not.
My friends aren’t.
My co-workers aren’t.
In fact, most people I know aren’t Irish.  Or if they are it’s like 1/32 and their Irish ancestors came over in the Potato Famine and they don’t even know that Great-Great-Great-Grandma’s name.
I’m not prejudice against the Irish- they’re lovely people, history and politics aside.  In general they have a warm, welcoming culture, not terribly unlike my own Scottish American upbringing.  They have good beer, and decent food on the Celt scale, and the perfect genes for amazing hair (and if our recent-immigrant neighbors are any indicator they also make the most adorable babies).
I think it’s demeaning to pretend we’re all something we’re not, both to our own families ancestral cultures which are being belittled and ignored by this claim, and to the Irish culture, which is being co-opted by those who have no interest in engaging in the thousands of special rites, rituals, and norms that fully embody the rich heritage.
I’m proud to be the daughter of Scots.  I’m proud to have a mother who gave up her family and career and life to marry the man she loved and immigrate to a new country.  I’m proud to have Grandparents who brought their son, my father, into the world while immigrating- intent on building a brighter city, and a new home church (my grandfather was an engineer, and an elder in our church).  
I’m as proud to be Scottish as my Irish neighbors are to be Irish.  They are proud to have come from families that fought for peace during The Troubles (Protestant/ Catholic unrest from the 1960s to the late 1990s), proud to teach their children the step dances that once protected revolutionaries in their homeland, proud to call a mystical fairy-tale laden homeland their own.  
The trouble is, Saint Patrick’s day (when celebrated as Americans do) isn’t about that culture.  It isn’t about the pride, or sharing the history, or supporting the many current, historical, or ancestral immigrants.  It isn’t about Saint Patrick and his kidnapping, or priesthood, or his long work in Christian evangelicalism.  It isn’t even about that weird snake story (that National Geographic explains is a big fat lie).
Saint Patrick’s day (in America) is about getting drunk, dirtying waterways, sexually harassing others,  and gleaning fake “luck.”  And these traditions in “celebrating” Irish heritage cheapen the Irish people.
The Irish, contrary to 19th century American ideals are not drunkards who suck down green beer daily, in fact alcohol and alcoholism are serious issues often discussed in Irish homes and communities.  They do no go around dying rivers, canals, and fountains with often environmentally damaging chemicals like Frat boys during Rush- they have many centuries worth of conservation and environmental protection efforts, and they are a leader in eco-building and tourism today.  The Irish do not go around pinching a girls butt based on her shirt colour.  And they certainly don’t believe you will magically gather luck from the kiss of a person who happens to have been born or have ancestors born on an island with the Blarney stone (never mind if that person has actually ever seen, or touched this stone).  In fact, like most cultures- Irish fathers would really rather you keep  your drunk paws off their daughHolidaers.
And my father, like the Irishman next door, would rather that too.
So don’t kiss me- I’m Scottish American.
And don’t pinch my butt either- because you may very well end up with a green and black and blue eye when I prove my heritage.
And that would be a sad way to celebrate a sad holiday.




  1. I understand the sentiment. I’m not Irish either, but since my move to the U.S. in the early 90s, I’ve come to enjoy the day. Took me some time, though. When people pointed out I wasn’t wearing green, my reply was: I’d like to see anyone try to pinch me. Now, I see it as a day of international togetherness, same as the Persian New Year (I’m not Iranian either), and so many other holidays. I think all holidays have some sad element to them — took sacrifice to reach a day of celebration — 4th of July, for one. But, yeah, I do remember the feeling.

    • Yeah, I think I found it difficult to be surrounded by those who couldn’t (or didn’t care to) understand how different the Irish and Scottish cultures are. It was, and still is, insulting to be lumped together- and not because I thought it was bad to be Irish, Im just not, and my own heritage and history deserves recognition as well.
      The thing that specifically frustrates me about St. Patrick’s day is that unlike Persian New Year, Fourth of July, or Ramadan Feasts, where many outsiders are welcomed into the celebration, this isn’t about the actual celebration of culture, and those sacrifices that have been made. When I attend Ramadan Feast with my Muslim friends they take time to explain why they are celebrating, and rejoice in chance to discuss their own sacrifices and the importances to them. That just doesnt happen with St. Patricks day- at best someone will raise a glass to the Irishman who rid the land of snakes, when St. Patrick was sanctified for being a Briton who converted the Irish to Christianity. The whole thing doesn’t seem respectful to me. I guess I want to be together with my neighbors, without having to demean them, or become them 🙂

  2. Pingback: March & April 2014: Wrap Up | A MaeDay Life

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