How to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day Like an Irish (Canadian) Person

My name is Anne T. Donahue, and if you can’t tell by my last name, I am an Irish person.

Well, technically I am a quarter (and a bit) Irish — the rest is Lithuanian (and then a bit of English and Alsace), but because I grew up around my Irish family, I’m comfortable enough to identify with ye olde Irish culture. Also, my last name. It used to be O’Donahue, for heaven’s sake, and I am 99.9% sure it doesn’t get any more Irish than that. (Also, I sunburn very easily.) (And I had to quit drinking.)

So instead of telling you how to have an Irish St. Patrick’s Day [insert winky-face emoji here], I’ll tell you how to have a traditional Irish St. Patrick’s Day by Donahue standards. That’s right, friends: you can keep the green beer and Celtic music, we’ve got emotional repression and bootlegging in our midst!


Oh no, I didn’t say “BYOB” — I mean “MYOB.” Make your own booze. Like my great-grandmother did when she first came to Canada, and made her daughter Kitty pick up the ingredients/drop off the homemade booze. There’s a lot more to it (like her being a single mom with a blood disorder, and dying when my grandpa was 17), but let’s start there. There’s nothing Irish about green beer. There’s lots Irish about immigrants coming to Canada and having to make money any way they could. Which I think is way more interesting, anyway (though true to Irish family form, nobody in my family will talk about the vulnerable parts of this saga — we repress because we’re busy).

2. Potatoes — eat them all

This isn’t even an Irish cliche. I wish I could lie and say my family has no interest in potatoes, but that would be insulting because we are all individually obsessed to the point of it being weird and also the cause of weight gain. (It doesn’t help that my Lithuanian mom was raised on potatoes, too, but this holiday isn’t about the Baltic states, it’s about an Emerald Isle, so enough about that, Mum.) But yes, potatoes: eat them any way you can. Eat them baked. Eat them boiled. Eat them mashed, and then fry a few eggs and mash them in there, too. Eat them fried. Eat them broiled. Basically, eat as many potatoes as you can. And then you’ll be surprised at your now very high alcohol tolerance.

3. Say everything very, very loud

I come from a family of yellers, and if you’re put off by reading that, good riddance, you wouldn’t last three minutes at Christmas dinner. We yell about everything. We yell on the phone, we yell at each other, we yell at other people, we yell alone when we’re driving — we’re always yelling, and then always being told to be quiet by whoever it is we’re with and who’s slightly or incredibly embarrassed. So then we yell at them. (“I’m not yelling!”) And it’s not like we’re angry about anything, we’re just . . . loud. Like, if I were to accidentally delete this article whilst in the middle of typing it (and I’m sure somebody out there thinks I should), I would yell at the computer, and I would yell about how the computer is stupid, and I would swear a lot, and then somebody would say “Miss, are you okay?” and then I’d be embarrassed for them that they didn’t think I was. Of course I’m okay. It’s just a computer. My family’s been through much worse than this, wanna hear about it?

4. Tell people everything about your Irish family

Listen: the Donahues, like all poor Irish families, have a lengthy history of both delight and horror. And we want to tell you about it. All of it. Like, I want to tell you about my Dad’s family not being able to afford real sandwiches, and about how my Grandpa had a quick temper that led to him nearly beating up a racist. So if you truly want to have a real St. Patrick’s Day, you will make sure that you are in a position to share the best stories about your Irish family, and how great they are, and the things you’ve seen, and if you end up doing it right, people will actually be like “Holy shit, she’s next level.” Though preferably, do this around people who like listening to stories. If they don’t, goodbye to them, they belong with the people who don’t like yelling.

5. Have an opinion about everything

And I mean everything. You think I don’t have an opinion on this ginger ale I’m drinking? Guess again. You think I don’t have an opinion on the nine-year-old kid I saw having a tantrum because her mother wouldn’t buy what she wanted at Lush today? You are so wrong. To put it plainly, if I walk into my uncle’s garage and he’s having a beer, I could say “I can’t believe how shitty the Jays are this season” and we could go on about why the other person is wrong for about 45 minutes. Or right! Yes, it’s true: sometimes Irish people agree. So this St. Patrick’s Day, you walk into a pub, and you say something declarative. Maybe about the government. Maybe about a sports team. And first person to come back with an opinion is not only an Irish person, but a person worthy of your time.

Anyone decked out in glitter and specialty boxers can sit at the kids’ table where they belong.

Tags: Diet, friendship, irish traditions, Self-help, St. Patrick's Day

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