Tag Archives: Ireland

Happy St. Patrick’s Day 2012

St. Patrick’s Day is nearly over. I didn’t do too much this year– I wore my requisite green shirt, and striped green socks, and even drank a holiday themed beer in the evening, however overall the day was relatively low key, as P and I were both busy working on projects, shackled to our respective computers.

Conversely, P’s younger brother U was in Dublin, celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in style with our Irish friend RH and our former neighbor D (who several months ago resettled in the Emerald Isle). U was periodically uploading pictures of his St. Patrick’s Day activities on Facebook, giving us a glimpse of what the party was like in the Irish-American “motherland.”

U, RH and D in Dublin

I’ve mentioned before that my family considers itself “Irish-American.” On my mother’s side my grandfather immigrated from Western Ireland (I believe in the 40s), and my grandmother’s parents were also both from that region of the country. On my father’s side the connection stretches back farther, but the family still takes pride in it’s “Irish-American” roots. As an “Irish-American” St. Patrick’s Day has always been an acknowledged and celebrated part of the spring calendar.

Growing up my father was part of an Irish-American club in the town, and I remember many childhood St. Patrick’s Days spent at the club helping to serve corned beef and cabbage dinners to townspeople who came by the hundreds every March 17th. Many of them probably considered themselves “Irish-American” as well but I’m sure others just wanted to join in the fun and celebrate along with their friends and neighbors.

We would watch Irish step dancers perform and listen to recordings of Irish pub songs that relied heavily on accordions and fiddles. Everyone in the club was bathed in Kelly Green… shirts, pants, dresses, socks, scarves. Some wore plastic shamrock shaped shot glasses hanging from green Mardi Gras bead necklaces, others wore headbands with cheesy shamrock antenna, and little kids often sported sparkly green shamrock stickers on their cheeks. As far as I was concerned, as a kid, everyone in the world celebrated St. Patrick’s Day.

Then in sixth grade I signed up for a youth magazine that had a pen pal section in the back. For several years I often responded to pen pal requests, and I advertised for pen pals as well. I had quite a few, some in the US, but also several from abroad– including one kid I exchanged several letters with from Singapore. He had responded to my pen pal request printed in the magazine, explaining he was of Indian origin and his name was Manuj. In response to the letter he sent I told him a little about myself, and talked about my excitement for St. Patrick’s Day, which was coming a few days later. In the letter I asked him about how he celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, and what people do for the holiday in Singapore.

A few weeks passed and I received a letter back that contained shocking information for the sixth grade version of me… “We don’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Singapore, as there are not a lot of Irish people here. Since my family is from India, we have never done anything for St. Patrick’s Day, but it was interesting to hear what your family does.” It was one of those “aha” moments for me that made me realize that other parts of world really are different.

After meeting our Irish friend, I’ve had several other “aha” moments about my understanding of “Irish-American” culture, and how it differs from “real Irish” culture– including my name. I think I mentioned this before, but I always thought my first name was a super-uber Irish name, but later realized (and this really shook up my world!) that my name is only popular in Irish-diaspora cultures like the US and Australia, and hardly anyone in Ireland proper has my name because it is a gaelic noun.

I think RH had similarly strange “aha” moments (I am assuming, he can correct me if I am wrong) after coming to the US for his graduate studies. Many Americans, particularly in New England which is a large “Irish-American” stronghold, had a lot of stereotypical views of what an “Irish” person was supposed to be like, and RH often didn’t adhere to their expectations.

So when U decided to travel to Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day RH was a little worried that U would be disappointed. St. Patrick’s Day is often an excuse for people in the US to go a little crazy, drinking green beer and sharing their Irish pride all over the place… but these crazy celebrations are often in Irish-diaspora cities. Dublin has a parade and celebrations, but RH worried that U might expect the biggest St. Patrick’s Day party ever, the granddaddy of them all, so to speak.

It seems from the pictures that the festivities were fun, and U had the “authentic” Irish St. Patrick’s Day party he was hoping for.

If you are interested in learning more about the creation of “Irish-American” cultural identity NPR had an interesting 45 minute radio program on Tom Ashbrook’s “On Point” the other day called “How the Irish became American” arguing, in part, that “Irish-American” identity was one of the first hyphenated identities in the US. It’s definitely worth a listen.

Hope you all had a nice day… whether you celebrated St. Patrick’s Day or not :)

Joga Bonito Henry

P has been very supportive of my writing, and I think he is as excited as I am that people are enjoying the blog. He doesn’t consider himself a “writer” but felt passionately enough about a football match recently (the Ireland v. France World Cup qualifier on Wednesday) that he actually asked me if he could write a guest post. So although it is off topic (though P argues that it is not “off topic” since he loves football, and thus it is “part of our household”), I hope you enjoy P’s take on the game and his very first (ever!) blog posting.

The playoff game between France and Ireland for a place in the World Cup 2010 is going to be the most talked over controversial game in the days to come. I watched the Irish luck run out yesterday evening with two fellow spectators who happened to be Irishmen, and to say we all felt gutted, angered, and disappointed would be an understatement. Thierry Henry clearly handled the ball, not once but twice, which led to the winning goal that robbed Ireland a possible but deserved place in the 2010 World Cup. He later admitted saying “I will be honest, it was a hand ball. But I’m not the ref. I played it. The ref allowed it. That’s a question you should ask him.”

Henry's hand ball, caught on film...

To Henry’s admittance of handball and his sly act to pass the blame to the ref, Richard Williams of the guardian writes, “No, mon brave, but you are the captain of France, the country that gave us the World Cup, and here you had the chance to show us what sport can mean – or, at least, what we tell our children it means.” Not to mention that the French also gave us existentialism and Albert Camus who surely knew about morality and the duty of man as bravery and fair play, something that he learned and valued during his goalkeeping stint for RUA (Racing Universitaire Algerois).

I think Henry had been a role model (this has been also debated lately) up to now with his reputation both on the field and more importantly off the field where he has actively led the anti-racist campaign, UNICEF, and the Joga Bonito (play beautiful) ad campaigns. Henry could have admitted to the ref at the 103rd minute and he would have hit the news headlines for a different reason. But he is human after all and the stakes were all too high. Most players would have probably done the same.

Robbie Keane (Captain of Irish team) consoles Keith Andrews...

The French public, the media, and former players have joined the legions of people who have lashed out at Henry to reveal their displeasure and embarrassment in the manner the victory has come. A major section of the French nation has turned against the former Highbury star. Clearly the French national team has been mismanaged which was evident from its lackluster play and is only thriving in the shadows of its past performances. The Irish were by far the better and more entertaining team.

This game will reignite further debates, first, on the use of video technology in football (soccer). Both FIFA and UEFA are strictly against the use of video evidence and have pushed towards reliance on referees. Then the other issue, which is both ethical and normative, is what constitutes ‘fair play’ in football. The first point in the FIFA code of conduct reads: “Play fairWinning is without value if victory has been achieved unfairly or dishonestly. Cheating is easy, but brings no pleasure. Playing fair requires courage and character. It is also more satisfying. Fair play always has its reward, even when the game is lost. Playing fair earns respect, while cheating only brings shame. Remember: it is only a game. And games are pointless unless played fairly.”

The fact of the matter is Ireland is out and France is through. FIFA will end up turning a deaf ear to the Irish pleas. The country will have to wait another agonizing four years to be able to resurrect their hopes of qualifying to the next World Cup. Should FIFA always try and give an easy passage to the top-seeded teams in the WC qualification playoffs and maintain the hegemony? Perhaps Portugal would have played France and Bosnia played Ireland had the seedings not been included at the last minute in the selection for playoff qualification. I would not mind seeing Džeko instead of Gallas or Anelka. One can only hope FIFA learns some valuable lessons with Ireland’s misfortune. Henry, already in the twilight of his career, will probably lose his revered status among a majority of his supporters and every game he participates in from now on will be fraught with criticism. Like Zidane’s moment of madness in the last World Cup when he headbutted Materazzi, this will be talked about for a while. Love it or hate it. This is football.