Today I'm reminiscing of my childhood celebrations of St. Patrick's day. My family really seems to hold on tightly to our Irish roots and so this day always was a production. I'm talking green milk all day long, a big meal of corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, Irish soda bread (my FAVORITE), I'm sure there were probably some green eggs in there, green cookies, what else can you die green?
The way my family, and much of America, have latched on to this holiday as a way of celebrating Irish heritage (or good friends and beer) has me thinking. I think it is so interesting how in our melting pot of a country some (many?) of us hold on to a specific part of our cultural/ethnic background as a big part of our identity. What I think is funny is how people chose to loudly proclaim some cultural identities and keep others much more muted.
When I was younger I always got the impression that my mom's side of the family were the loud Irish-Catholics and my dad's side German. I just assumed that's all there was to it based on what I always heard in family gatherings. The Irish side was always played up so much more that if it weren't for my last name, you could almost forget about the German heritage (not to mention the first names in my family: Molly, Kieran, Patrick, Megan, Evan...I could go on and on). Oh, and my name? Well, St. Brigid is only like the second patron saint of Ireland after St. Patrick, so yeah...
So, imagine my surprise working on a genealogy project sometime in middle/high school and finding out about that crazy, 'we're so Irish' side of the family? Yeah, there were some from Ireland, but what about the French-Canadian, German, a Swiss mixed in there, plus the part of the family that's been in America long enough to be around signing the Constitution? Hmm, what about them...
I guess the Irish were the more recent immigrations and therefore the culture seems more relevant and convenient to hold on to. The thing is, you see this so often but you rarely hear someone just say "I'm American". I never really thought about this until a couple years back when B and I were talking about our family's and he said just that. What's different is that his grandmother actually grew up in Europe and immigrated here as an adult so the cultural ties are so much stronger, but instead he self-described as American instead of being picky about one European country over another. How awesome is that?
Maybe that's just what we need in our country...to quit nitpicking over each specific ethnicity and just celebrate that we are here, in America. I think a lot of what divides people could be resolved if we tried not to compare quite as much. Jamie was just telling me recently how she never knows what to mark on demographic papers; should she mark Hispanic, or if it isn't an option then Caucasian, or the two or more races category? Cultural sensitivity is always important and their are times where race or ethnicity does come into play; but does anyone feel that maybe it comes up a little too often? We are all still people!
Of course, I don't expect everyone to loose their cultural identity, nor would I ever encourage it. I think it is so lovely and special for those families that genuinely keep a hold to cultural ties and practices. I also think these cultural traditions are a great way to grow up realizing where one's family might have come from, to learn about how they came to where they are today and how important history can be; affecting both people and families as well as the country's development.
This was totally not supposed to be a downer...so, with that: Eat, Drink, Be Merry today! I still plan on celebrating like any good Irish would!