Despite or perhaps because of being the descendant of Irish immigrants, I am extremely ambivalent about St. Patrick's Day. This is probably the result of having lived in Boston and Chicago most of my adult life. Even setting aside the twee sweater-wearing folksong-singing stereotypes (I'm looking at you, Clancy Brothers), the denatured leprechauns with their pots of gold, the pseudo-Mardi Gras atmosphere, all things Riverdance, and the green dye poured into the Chicago river every year, I have difficulty finding any real connection to the land of my ancestors. How is it still "the old country" 135 years after my ancestors made their North American landfall? If I were ever to visit Ireland, I'd be a foreigner there (albeit, it must be admitted, a very familiar-looking foreigner). I am neither Catholic nor Protestant (I'm not even Christian). I have no particular stake in "the Troubles" other than a hearty wish that, starting right now, nobody else should have to die over them.
What did I inherit from my Irish ancestors other than my coloring and my freckles (and possibly my love for cabbage and potatoes)? Certain patterns might be observed in my extended family, like a tendency toward large families, a lot of marriages between outspoken women and taciturn men, an overall Catholicism, and so on. But I'm Jewish (by choice), childless (not by choice, still working on that), and married to a loquacious extrovert. Some of what I am must be informed by the immigrant experience; my grandfather remembered seeing job listings marked "No Irish Need Apply," and I lived for years in the former fiefdoms of Mayors Curley and Daley. But I can't quite identify where those connections live, and it doesn't seem to justify the wearing of the green today. Much in the same way that flying the American flag was co-opted by jingoism in the post-9/11 era, a claim to be Irish on St. Patrick's day is more about green beer and block parties than about anything I can recognize as identity. So I'm staying out of it altogether until I can figure out where I stand.