St. Patrick’s Day is fast approaching and I had the luck of being able to attend the “greenest” parade of all in Seaside Heights, New Jersey this past weekend. Being fortunate enough to have a significant twenty-five percent of my heritage rooted in Irish descent, I’ve always felt a certain connection to the holiday without getting overwhelmed by the more serious traditions like eating corned beef and cabbage for dinner or baking soda bread with any relatives. While I do enjoy all these foods and some other customs the Irish have to offer, I tend to keep my distance from St. Patrick’s Day celebrations on the account of all the wild drunks that are usually associated with them. If you’ve never attended such an event and have no knowledge of what I mean, good for you and I hope you never have to find out. But here’s the basic gist:
The St. Patrick’s Day parade in Seaside Heights was like many other that I’ve watched over the years. The firefighter teams, police departments, American legions, ambulance corps, and other rescue services from at least eight towns lead the parade, blaring their sirens and honking their horns to render you partially deaf for the remainder of the day.
Then, random cars and motorcycles with various prominent townspeople roll down the main street, waving like the Queen of England to the spectators, 75 percent of whom don’t know who the riders are. Some local businesses will advertise by driving their trucks and such down the road with eye-catching props like a cow with a wig on it or big floats and flags. Guaranteed, there will be at least two local radio stations, battling to the death, giving away free merchandise to unsuspecting children who will immediately drop the flyer/sticker/necklace on the street and walk away, distracted by one of the forty men with rolling carts selling various balloons and toys that have nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day. I could be wrong, but I’m fairly sure neither Princess Elsa, Spongebob, nor Dora the Explorer are Irish.
Finally, the real show begins. High school marching bands from various towns perform their finest numbers and legions of bagpipe players release into the air the high-pitched whines of white girls when they've been told Starbucks is out of mocha frappuccinos. And of course, there's enough green in the street to resemble the aftermath of the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards. It's a sight to behold.
But what's most notable about the parade day is the drunk people and they're heinous attire. Anyone under the age of fifty at the parade is dressed like a freshman girl at St. Fratty's Day with a disgusting amount of green apparel and tacky shamrock accessories. Local bars and restaurants host St. Patrick's Day parties and people are basically drinking in public. The whole town has turned up for this holiday commemorating the introduction of Christianity to Ireland by guzzling Guinness like their lives depend on it. They're having the best time of their lives and it's obvious.
I watch as an outsider, eyes hurting from the green overload, but content to have witnessed a very Americanized cultural tradition that I hope to one day see the better side of. What's bad about St. Patrick's Day is that it will more often than not perpetuate stereotypes about Irish people. What's amazing about it is that you can see that these Irish people don't care what you think about them because they like to live life to the fullest and won't let your judgments get in their way of having a good time. It's times like these when I don't know whether to be proud or ashamed to be Irish. All I know is that green is most definitely not my color.