Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Americans love any excuse to play dress-up-and-party, and today’s the day everyone wears green. Yes, it’s St. Patrick’s Day in America, which means everyone claims Irish ancestry, wears silly shamrock hats and ties, and goes around butchering the pronunciation of Éirinn go Brách.

It seemed absurd to me at first — most of these people could barely find Éire on a map — but there’s a bit more to it than that.

Odds are, particularly if you live in a big city, that a good chunk of the people you meet have one or more grand- or great-grandparents who hailed from the Emerald Isle. It’s one of the most common ethnic ancestries of all Americans, just behind German and African. Philadelphia has the second-largest Irish-descended population at 13% of residents (Boston is first at 15.8%). And, for the 34.5 million Americans who claim some Irish ancestry, there’s often a tale of bitter hardship involved, along with overcoming incredible odds, and a sheer determination to succeed. I think that’s a large part of the reason why everyone here seems to embrace St. Patrick’s Day — the story of the Irish is a quintessentially American one.

You could spend the day grumbling that this is an appalling pastiche of a noble people, that the emphasis on booze and hijinks plays into the worst cultural stereotypes, and that St. Patrick himself was probably born in England and anyway would likely be appalled at the commercialization of his name. But that would be churlish. Frankly, it’s just way more fun to give in and enjoy the crazy.

Most of what passes for beer in the U.S. is pretty disgusting anyway, so why not drink it green?


Is there anything more bizarrely American — the ultimate cultural mishmash — than a green bagel?



Whoever runs the social media for the Philadelphia police department does seem to enjoy his/her job. And in case you’re wondering, the Shamrock shake is a McDonald’s thing, a limited-time offering every year (proceeds go to the Ronald McDonald charity network). They reportedly taste like a mild vanilla milkshake with a hint of mint. Strangely, I’ve never had the desire to try one.



And the biggest and brashest St. Patrick’s day stunt of all? My vote goes to Chicago, which really does dye the river green every year, on the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day.


It started in 1962 when some stunt-inclined pollution-control workers, who habitually used chemical dyes to trace illegal sewage discharges, thought it would be fun to dump 100 pounds of dye into the river. The river stayed green for a week. But everyone agreed this was great fun, and it’s been done ever since — except now they use more environmentally friendly powdered, vegetable-based dye that only makes the river green for a few hours.

So, I’ll drink the god-awful beer, laugh at the variety of green foods and clothes, and thoroughly enjoy living in such a gloriously diverse country.


About abroadintheusa

An expat Brit who's lived and worked in the USA for more than three decades.
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6 Responses to Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

  1. Michael Golden says:

    You are really exceptionally good at this tone.

    Michael Golden

    Sent from my iPhone

    Please forgive inadvertent auto typos



  2. Pingback: Halloween in America: Candy, Costumes, and Crazy Decorations | Abroad in the USA

  3. I stumbled on your blog, and I love it. You should compile the posts in an eBook, since it is so easy to do these days.

    I have to say though, there is an entire beer culture here in the US that is leagues better than it used to be. Craft brews are the norm for the young and trendy. Possibly it says more about the company you keep if you are hanging out with Budweiser-drinkers that can’t find Ireland on a map!

    LOL, just teasing. Keep up the writing! US culture viewed through your lens is highly entertaining.
    I’m a US citizen who longs for the expat life once more – I lived in Japan for 12 years.


    • Hi Charles! Glad you found me.
      I think finding good beer in the US is like trying to find good coffee in the UK — it’s much MUCH better than it used to be, there are options if you know where to look, but you have to be really choosy ‘cos mostly when people say beer/coffee they mean something very different from what you’re used to! (If you’ve ever been handed a mug of luke-warm escae instant coffee when you were expecting a proper coffee you’ll know what I mean.)
      I’m far from young and certainly not trendy, but I have to think there’s hope for the beer-drinking future if craft brews are becoming the norm for the under-30 crowd.
      And thanks for the eBook suggestion, I just might do that!


    • That’s supposed to say “…Nescafe instant coffee”


  4. charlesayres says:

    Love your blog. It is highly entertaining. You don’t need to diss American beer so much, though. Beer culture has changed in the USA. The young and trendy all drink craft brew!
    Maybe it says more about the company you keep if you’re with a bunch of Budweiser-drinkers that can’t find Ireland on a map. Just kidding. Look forward to more posts!


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