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Why we all want to be Irish for a day

Thousands of people lined the streets for the parade and a concert in Trafalgar Square
Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day- the day we celebrate much more so than the country across the “pond” that inspired it. Parades are held, many folks find something green to wear, restaurants offer traditional Irish fare on their specials list, and D.C.’s Irish bars begin to fill up by mid-morning.

So what is it about the Irish that leads so many to want an honorary membership on the 17th of March? After all, the negative stereotypes abound- they consume too much alcohol, have bad tempers, are always itching for a fight, have no sense of style, and lack culture and sophistication. Note that I said stereotypes- I was not implying that these are even true, yet they have dogged the Irish since they began their heavy migration here during the time of their great famine back home.

Perhaps the positive stereotypes that grew with their increased presence have helped to counter the early bad impressions and fueled their appeal. Their charm, gift of gab, great storytelling, and love of fun- and their involvement and success in politics up to the highest office in our country. Think Presidents JFK, Clinton and (yes) even O’Bama.

Or perhaps it is something more, especially in a city as transitory as Washington- a place filled with people from somewhere else who often struggle with feelings of isolation and rootlessness. After all the Irish are a people descended from large clans who lived, worked and played hard together- a people with a strong identity that maintains itself in large part through it’s unique music and style of dance. Saint Patrick’s Day is the day that identity is celebrated, and everyone who partakes gets a taste of that feeling of belonging- through the story telling songs, laughter, fellowship, and for one day- membership in a deeply rooted and ancient tribe where everyone can feel at home.

Erin Go Braugh!

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