You Are Why I Hate St. Patrick’s Day


So it’s that time of year again. St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner, and I, proud Mick-American that I am, will be spending it the same way I have for the past decade: locked up in my house, pretending to be German.

Or Italian. Or Vietnamese. Or whatever is required to assuage my weird guilt over not spending the day hanging out in one of Philadelphia’s hundred Irish-y pubs, drinking watery green-tinted Budweiser and getting arrested for assaulting a police horse.

Now, I have been known to enjoy a drink or two. Or seven. My natural habitat is the dim confines of a bar, my elbows up on the long oak, a pint at hand. I can remember happy St. Patrick’s Days past when I whiled away entire weekends in this manner, drinking my fill and laughing myself hoarse among friends and strangers.

But lately, St. Patrick’s Day has become a bit darker and a lot uglier. Always a drinker’s holiday, it’s morphed from a slightly debauched celebration of all things (vaguely) Irish to something more akin to a localized public disaster. When your holiday reflexively comes with a line item in the city budget for riot police, you know that something has gone very wrong.

My colleague Erica Palan wrote about this last year in a blog post about the “Erin Express”—the mid-March pub crawl that has become little more than a “drink-till-you-pass-out” event, during which she saw girls vomiting into sewer grates and “drunken men peeing on the street in broad daylight and verbally and physically provoking female passersby. (Never before has the phrase ‘Kiss Me, I’m Irish’ seemed so threatening.)”

What’s worse, the local news media have chosen to bank on this last-days-of-Caligula vibe by gleefully rolling up on any dump in the city with an Irish-sounding name and filming the mobs of drunk frat boys drooling green beer onto their flip-flops. Frankly, this is tantamount to filming at Church’s Chicken on Martin Luther King Day and hoping crowds of black people show up to buy fried chicken. Who would stand for that? No one, and rightly not. But portraying the Irish as a horde of drunken losers who’ll gladly debase themselves for plastic shamrock necklaces and dollar drafts is apparently just fine.

I mean, if we’re so bound to turn the day into a festival of bad stereotypes, why not just hire a bunch of midgets, dress them in green tailcoats, and have them chase people around the bar trying to recover their stolen breakfast cereal? Now, that would make for some great television, right?

Too bad I’ll miss all the fun as I spend this St. Patrick’s Day at home, sipping a couple of quiet whiskeys and keeping off the streets. And if for some reason I get a little out of hand and overindulge, I’ll throw up in my own bathroom, thank you very much, out of view of any crowds or prying cameras.

You know, like a proper Irish gentleman. Sláinte.

Illustration by Kagan McLeod

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  • Rory Kramer

    who is “you?” Yeah, it’s definitely the readers of a food blog who are doing this. smfh

  • Sheehan is a baby

    How is this tantamount to going to a fried chicken place on MLK day? I thought the lenten restrictions of drinking alcohol were lifted on this day? I cant believe I almost read all of this dribble

    • Sheehan is a baby

      Drivel*, excuse me

    • Natalie Shaak

      had you actually read the full blog, you would have realized the purpose of that comment in context….

  • jim

    lighten up you douchebag

  • Julie

    Totally accurate and funny. You nailed it. Thanks for reminding me to stay in and drink some Russian River Temptation from proper glassware next weekend.

  • Peter Dyer

    Whatever happened to just going out on St. Patrick’s Day? I think it’s the making it a month long event, focused on weekends, regardless of the actual day of the holiday which has really made things worse.

  • Shutyourjamesonhole

    And you are why I hate food bloggers.

    But, seriously, the analogy with MLK day is pretty stupid. Maybe if black folks acted like totally inebriated assholes on MLK day, and then about half of the non-black population pretended to be black that day as an excuse to act like totally inebriated assholes, sure, then it might make a little sense. But, yeah, that doesn’t happen.

    My fair-skinned and freckled brothers and sisters (and all your rightly-mentioned frat boy types) have actively and willingly turned a low key, somewhat drunken yet proud day into the current sad, pitiful, sloppy spectacle that it is now.

    • Natalie Shaak

      I am fair-haired and freckled and actually Irish (unlike probably 50-75% of people who cause problems on St. Patrick’s Day – most of the ones I see are actually Italian) and I have never participated in the drunken revelry of St. Patricks day and neither have any of my family or close friends.

      Also, I think your profanity is not necessary for a comment on a food blog post.

  • YewlKneverKatchDeezJawns

    Well said from an assumed Mick/Mc…whatever is improperabley improper…? Slainte McFukers!

  • MLC

    the MLK analogy is a bit far fetched, but the rest of this is spot on.

  • Anne Scardino

    I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s disgusting. The city should ban it. Drunks everywhere – urinating, throwing up, walking in front of cars. I almost hit a kid on a skate board on Walnut near 20th who was drunk out of his mind. Something has to be done.

  • TGT

    The parade means something different to everyone: religious traditionalists, moderate types, liberals…the non-irish friends smelling spring in the air and a little thirsty….Whatever…..And there’s always been drunken assholes…usually young kids, around on St. Patricks day…Taking advantage of the lax enforcement…I was one myself wayback when…I’ve been to countless parade’s all over the East coast(play the bagpipes) and I’ve never chosen to focus on the drunks who couldn’t handle their drink…I had some years when I stayed home, just tired of it…But I didn’t point a condescending finger at those who unfortunately haven’t learned how to be superior drinkers…Like myself and apparently Mr. Sheehan….True, all these parades have that idiot underbelly…. But, regardless of the pukers, there’s more people not making assholes of themselves, a ton of great music around, the spectacle of the parade…the tradition..and hopefully(fingers crossed) the weather….Slainte!

  • Natalie Shaak

    I agree with you that St. Patrick’s day in Philadelphia and many cities across the country is just plain offensive. I stay in my hood in West Philly far from any Irish pubs or stops on the Erin Express. In fact, I love my corner bar that will not let in anyone with beads on a ridiculous green ensembles.

    I literally said today that the city could balance its budget if it used the Erin Express to identify and fine all the bars serving underage college students and all the kids with fake IDs. Use those extra officers to make more money and “encourage” people to drink more responsibly.

    I do disagree with your summary of the annoying people on Erin Express as “drunk frat boys.” I work with a large number of fraternity men and they are actually the behaved ones. It’s not even just kids acting ridiculously. The other day I was greeted by dozens of drunk guys in kilts standing on south street with open containers and lugging 30-packs of crap beer. They (along with the 25-30 year old kids from the burbs) are the true idiots who ruin St. Patricks day for me every year.

  • Irishinspirit

    Here Here! So much more to being Irish than drinking yourself sick & consuming oddly green food. Shame there isn’t a place throwing a proper tribute, with lots of oysters, smoked salmon, good whiskey, storytelling and songs.

  • Louis Agre

    Much like Italian culture, that of DaVinci, Michelangelo, Levi,Puzo, Manzoni, Sinatra and Bennett etc. has been reduced to the cast of Jersey Shore, Irish culture, Behan, Thomas, Joyce, O’Neill (Tip and Eugene), the Kennedys has been reduced to sloppy drunks on St. Paddys day.

    • MJK

      News Flash…Most of the Kennedys were sloppy drunks.

  • KensoDrunk

    Hey what’s wrong with getting drunk and throwing up on the streets of Philadelphia? Better than having your brains blown out by a drive by or getting run over by a stolen car. Oh wait, Philly is the shitty of brotherly love, my bad.