St. Patty's, for a long time in my family, was the biggest holiday of the year. Don't get me wrong, we did Christmas and Easter big, but for the celebration of all things Irish-American, the Sunday closest to the holiday, we would all wake up early and, after attending mass, start decorating the house with Shamrocks and greenery, and my mother would start cooking. We would put forth a spread of cold meats and cheese, soda bread (which I know how to bake, btw, and it's damn good), sugar cookies in Shamrock shapes, lamb stew, triple layer cakes, fudge cake and Irish coffee for the adults. Then about 40 of our friends (adults and their kids) would arrive in the late afternoon. Irish music played on our CD player all day, and everyone stuffed their faces. We kids would engage in war (the girls vs the boys chasing each other around the yard with sticks, basically) whilst our parents got silly on the Baileys in their coffee.
As we got older, the parties became more and more subdued and ceased to be the affair they once were. Some of the reasons for that are good, some bad. My parents both quit drinking, so understandably, a holiday that has become (for many) simply an excuse to get fucked up was not something they really felt like getting excited about. I never remember my parents ever getting really drunk at our parties, but the association was still there for them, I can imagine. At any rate, the parties that make up some of the fondest memories of my childhood, faded away.
For a long time, I was rabidly proud of my heritage, and in some ways I still am. When I moved to NYC, I looked forward to St. Patty's, sure it must be even more exciting in a town with such amazing nightlife. The reality wasn't what I expected. My first St. Pat's here I got extremely sick, and the little drinking I did exacerbated the problem, so I stumbled back to my dorm and passed out around midnight, and was horribly sick the next morning, so bad that my teacher sent me home (I'm sure she thought I was just really hungover). The next one, I was in rehearsal until 11, and only partied a little, with people I didn't know very well, at a party that wasn't even about St. Pat's. I don't remember what I did last year, I think I worked. It wasn't memorable at any rate.
This year, I find myself at work again, sitting in the office at my bar, adorned in festive garb, while drunken sports fans reel around the bar upstairs wearing green party beads, "celebrating" a holiday that probably means very little to them. After reading this on Gawker, I found that I agreed almost wholeheartedly. My Irish heritage is something very real for me, and while I like a party as much as the next person, it irks me that the holiday has been turned into "Excuse to Get Obnoxiously Drunk For No Reason Day." I will not begrudge anyone their partying, but for myself, I want to make the holiday about more than just drinking. Maybe it's just nostalgia for what once was, but I would like to, in the future, make the day about actually celebrating my ancestors fight for recognition in America, make it about eating Irish food and listening to Irish music, and while I cannot by any means Irish dance, I want it to be a real celebration and not just an inebriated shit-show.
Of course, holidays in general have been hijacked by corporations in America, and St. Patty's is probably the least of them. But it's the one that is most personal to me, so next year (or perhaps this month if I'm able to budget it) I will host a celebration that is about what St. Patty's used to be for me: a day about Irish culture, family and amazing Irish food. Though, I'd probably be kidding myself if I said I wasn't going to crack open Guinness.
Have a great and safe evening lads and lasses,