Monday, March 17, 2008


A number of year’s ago on St. Patrick’s Day, a coworker asked me if I was part Irish. I enthusiastically replied that my great-grandmother was a Murphy and 100% Irish. She, being significantly closer to her Irish ancestry, replied somewhat disdainfully “Is that all?”

Is that all? I was taken aback. It had never occurred to me that that wasn’t a lot. Being the Western European mutt that I am, to be able to say I’m about 1/8th Irish is about as much as I am anything. Sure I’m more German than anything, followed closely by my mysterious Swiss ancestry that gives me my name, but Irish is right up there. Besides, no popular holidays exist for celebrating one’s Swiss or German heritage, let alone the trace amounts of English, Scottish, Welsh, or Danish I have swirling about my DNA.

So why celebrate the drop in my gene pool that is Irish? Perhaps the better question is why have Americans created a holiday upon which everyone can claim to be Irish? I marvel at the phenomenon especially considering how America once shunned its Irish immigrant minority. Can we look forward to a day where everyone is black on MLK Day?

Let’s face it: we’re a nation that loves to party, but generally needs an excuse to do so. We’ve built three major holidays around getting drunk: New Year’s Eve, St. Patrick’s Day and Halloween (with Cinco de Mayo swiftly ascending the ranks to make that trio a quartet). St. Patrick’s Day provides us with a prime opportunity to drink given traditional associations with the Irish and alcohol. Today everyone can lift a glass of Guinness or whisky and feel in touch with some mythical Irish ancestry of their own.

Whereas I get a day that I can feel more in touch with a tiny part of my heritage. A day when that 1/8th swallows up the rest of me and gives me a rare opportunity to feel ethnic instead of the white bread diluted majority that I am. Today that 1/8th is a lot.


  1. love your blog! i've always wondered why st patricks day was celebrated in such a big way in the US and now i see, any excuse for a pint! its such a compliment to the irish in america (even 1/8) that the council take such trouble to celebrate all that is irish! they don't do it for any other ethnic group! even dying a river green i hear! they don't even do that here! all we get is a parade and a day off work!
    ...and 1/8 is enough irish and sure doesn't that make you irish enough!...
    Lisa - Dublin

  2. Hi! I stubbled upon your blog on this VERY boring work afternoon... funny what you said about St. Paddy's, my husband and I talked about it yesterday (over a pint, of course) how weird we all get here in America about this "foreign" festivities... specially he being 100% German and me being 100% Colombian.
    That you feel your Irish heritage, even if it was your great gran uncle who once visited Dublin, hey, it's just about celebrating diversity and multiculturalism...and drinking green beer :)
    BTW, you can celebrate being German the 3rd of October!!! Or come down to New Braunsfeld, TX for the very famous Wurstfest.


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