To be honest, St. Patrick’s Day kind of stresses me out. Between the stereotypes, inaccuracies and downright falsehoods perpetuated about the Irish and the holiday itself, I end up feeling like I’m drowning in a sea of wrong. However, as I am merely an Irish American (and not all Irish at that) and do not speak the language (though I own several books on it in the eternal hope that I will remedy this), I end up feeling like the worst little pseudo-oppressed hipster when I try to correct or complain about anything, even if I have studied Irish history and mythology. And once danced in a Killarney pub with fellow Bound & Gagged banned books blogger, Hannah.
Then comes the onslaught of green and the charging hordes of St. Patrick’s day food/activities/paraphernalia that range from the tangentially related to the kitschy to the downright absurd (looking at you Pinterest). Factor into that that the holiday’s origins are uncomfortable at best and genocidal at worst (for more on this, please see this Cracked video or this unintentionally terrifying Veggie Tales retelling) and the bacchanalic, (pseudo?) nationalist spectacle it has since become in countries with diasporic Irish populations, and you have one very conflicted little Shannon with too many feelings, footnotes, and factoids to sanely share in one sitting.
However, St. Patrick’s Day can hold meaning for many (though what that meaning is may vary drastically) and can be just plain fun. It also provides an excellent opportunity to educate people about Ireland, Irish history (be it in Ireland or abroad), or Irish myths and legends. Given that this is a blog about banned books and intellectual freedom, I’ve been using St. Paddy’s Day to try to bring attention to the Irish language, as well as minority languages in general.
There is a lot of history and politics swirling around Irish/Gaeilge, so I won’t try to tackle it all here. Instead I bring you an interesting documentary about the current state of the language, “No Béarla” (“No English”). “No Béarla” follows a native Irish speaker’s attempts to get around Ireland speaking only Irish. The results are mixed and bound to start any number of conversations about minority languages, nationality, nationalism, identity, and the future of world languages in an increasingly globalized world. You can find the first episode of the documentary here. It’s less than 30 minutes, so it’ll barely cut into your pub crawl.
And, on a more hopeful note, here’s a bunch of adorable schoolchildren singing the ‘Cups’ Song in Irish. Speaking of which, I raise a cup to you and yours. May the road rise to meet you, friends. And may it lead you back to my blog again.
Dead Tongues Tell No Tales – Last year’s St. Patrick’s Day post, plus a list of goods books/movies on Irish history, politics, and myths
8 Fun Facts About the Irish Language – Check out this mental_floss article or just read the comments
I’m Not Dead Yet – Minority languages and the logistical issues they face
By Any Other Name – The politics of names and efforts to reclaim them