It’s not a secret that, for a lot of Americans, St. Patrick’s Day serves as an excuse to get uproariously drunk. And that’s fine—if we want to celebrate drinking alcohol, let’s do it. Let’s not do it, however, in the name of Irish tradition, which is, despite popular behavior, not entirely about consuming massive quantities of green beer.
St. Patrick’s Day originated in Ireland as a relatively minor religious holiday; later, Irish immigrants in America celebrated it as a way of honoring the memory of their homeland. Now, it’s become, like virtually every other holiday in the US, highly commercialized. Not only that, but St. Patrick’s Day today perpetuates offensive stereotypes and oversimplifies Irish tradition and culture.
It’s not just individuals partying on St. Patty’s Day who are participating in the spread of these stereotypes—the commercial industry cashes in on them,
manufacturing products that exploit popularized offensive images surrounding the holiday.
Notably, Urban Outfitters and Nike have faced controversy over the sale of such products; Urban Outfitters sold t-shirts emblazoned with sayings such as “Kiss Me, I’m Drunk,” and hats portraying the outline of a person bent over and vomiting, with accompanying text stating “Irish Yoga: Downward Facing Upchuck.”
Nike promoted a new shoe, the “Black and Tan,” named for the popular St. Patty’s Day combination ofstout and lager—neglecting to realize, however, that the name Black and Tan actually refers to a British militant group known in Ireland for violently suppressing civilian revolution in 1920.
Both of these cases exemplify the ignorance the Americanized version of St. Patrick’s Day spreads with respect to Irish history and culture. If we want a holiday dedicated to drinking, let’s make one. But reducing our knowledge of Irish history and culture to popularized contemporary
images of drunkenness is extremely offensive, and the fact that the clothing industry buys into these images, exploiting them to make money, should make us question what it is we’re really celebrating, and whether the profit is worth the cultural cost.