In the years since I traded the safe and happy bubble known as My Wisconsin Childhood for the cold and cruel existence known as My Iowa New Mexico Illinois Stressful and Expensive Student-Debt-Ridden Tax-Paying Adulthood, I have learned a few lessons about the wide world. Never pass up an opportunity for free food. You don't really have to wait an hour after lunch before you go swimming. Showing your boobs can get you shiny beads and free beers, but not out of speeding tickets. And (shockingly) St. Patrick's Day is a much bigger deal to our family than it is to almost everyone else.
This last one I learned first when I lived in New Mexico, where the holiday registers just above Casimir Pulaski day on the radar. I remember about falling out of my chair when someone explained that she didn't like St. Patrick's Day because of the pinching. "Who ever thought of a holiday all about pinching?"
St. Patrick's Day is not about pinching, my friends. It is not about pretending you're Irish just to get kisses. Contrary to what this city will tell you, it is not even about being falling-down-drunk by noon while men dressed as giant leprechauns try to roll your drunk ass into the neon-green river. (And no, random drunk guy in cab, I will not make out with that pole. Get back in your cab and take that ridiculous hat off. You're not "Chirish," you're just an alcoholic.)
St. Patrick's Day is about food. Delicious, delicious food. St. Patrick's Day is the Thanksgiving of spring, and like Thanksgiving, it's a holiday about family and togetherness and abundance and gratitude for these modern days when our potatoes aren't rotting in the fields and we have career options beyond cop and barmaid. We gather our friends and family and feast on corned beef and cabbage, potatoes, carrots, turnips, parsnips, onions, and loaf after loaf of gorgeous secret family recipe Irish Soda Bread. We add love and tears and generations of irish-catholic guilt, and cover it all in butter. We listen to The Chieftans and we commune with our ancestors and if we happen to cut ourselves and bleed into the bread, all the better.
We do not butter our Irish Soda Bread.
We do not put caraway in our Irish Soda Bread.
If you refuse to try our Irish Soda Bread because you "don't like raisins," we will mock you. Preferably until you cry. Just try the damn bread! You'll love it. I swear. No, you don't need to butter it! Jesus! JUST EAT THE BREAD!
Last weekend, my mother overheard my end of a cell phone conversation with my sister in which we outlined many of these rules in increasingly agitated fashion. When I yelled, "BUTTER? What's wrong with you??" my mother snorted diet pepsi through her nose and said, "I'm so proud of my children!"
In my family, we do not paint our faces green and use our Holy Feast Day as an excuse to get piss drunk with a bunch of frat boys. (Because who needs an excuse? If you need an excuse to drink, you're probably not Irish.) [As I was writing this, my friend Jeremy was twittering an Irish snarkfest. "Yeah, I'm listening to the Pogues. Do you know who that is, Green Shirt?" and "No matter how drunk you get, there will never be ANYTHING Irish about that Jagerbomb." I love him.]
We do not pinch. We don't play tricks or dye our beer green. My dad usually does tell thematically appropriate stories (including, but not limited to: "How A Leprechaun Stole My Backpack In Ireland" and "The Old Irish Farmer Who Was Possibly A Leprechaun Who Messed With Tom Dunne's And My Head In Ireland," and of course, "I Kissed The Blarney Stone And That Means I Get To Lie All The Time"). We wear green, sometimes. If we feel like it. We listen to the Chieftains and the Waterboys and Van Morrison and the Cranberries and the Pogues and Sinead O'Connor and the Dubliners and Cousin Kathy.
We make corned beef so good our friends get hooked and start shooting it straight into their veins.
We make soda bread so good the entire county demands their own loaf, and we turn our kitchens into soda bread factories for one week out of the year.
We feast. With friends, with family, we gather and serve it all up with love and gratitude and this amazing horseradish sauce. We feast.
Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone! (Except you, drunk guy. Get back in your cab and take off that hat.)