Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Ni Cennétig wrote
I would think that the abundance of Irish drinking songs probably adds to the view of Irish as constant drinkers. Celtic culture is very social, and music is a big part of their culture. So, they like to get together and sing, and, based on the songs, they like to get together and drink, and apparently, they really like to write songs about when they got together and drank.

I'm a fan of Irish music, and there seem to be a couple major themes: women, rebellion or war, and drinking. often they seem to like to combine these themes.

I am of Irish heritage, and proud of it, but this is a stereotype that I don't think is entirely unwarranted. Whether the majority is drinking most of the time, or they just like to look that way -- I don't think it's just Irish-Americans that propagate the stereotype.

But I do have to say that if the Irish are drinking all the time...sometimes it seems that the British didn't leave them much choice.
emmo wrote
There are various other reasons for Irish stereotypes.

During the penal laws, Irish Catholics were legally barred from attending an education, getting anything more than the most menial job, and owning more than two cows. After 200 years, the majority of the population was destitute and illiterate.

Since most Irish people had lived in a clan society (England had many more towns, being conquered by the Romans over a thousand years before) it was an easy disenfranchisement of the native peoples. Disenfranchised people always have alcohol problems, but it's important that people used music, and visiting friendly neighbors homes to escape the awfulness of their lives. Whiskey was already part of the culture from way back, so, it was part of their social lives, the music, the dancing and the close friendships of poor people in the country living near each other.

Originally, the people were thrown off their lands, and had to rent it back from foreign landlord. Over time an upper class of English descendants developed who charged high rent. The potato arrived, which meant that families could live off the potato, and grow other crops and raise animals to pay the rent.

As families got larger, and farms were subdivided more and more, people became poorer. Finally a series of famines happened, causing an emigration explosion.

Racial/Ethnic discrimination was rife, and a very protestant America/Canada in the 18/19th century was very hostile toward hundreds of thousands of dirt poor uneducated people looking for work. People suspected that the Irish were a lower race, uncouth, and unmannered. Similarly, the Irish - going for the easy immigrant jobs in the US army were shocked at army conduct during the Indian wars, and the "Spanish" war against Mexico - who were their fellow Catholics.

Usually, a family could save for 2-4 years to earn enough to pay for one person to get to America. You might never know which boat your 8 year old child would arrive on, and millions of families got lost in the giant slums of Boston, never to see their families again.

The Irish in general are proud of their reputation for drinking, but in reality, the British drink more. Irish-Americans however, often feel embarrassed about this stereotype, as US culture still has remnants of puritanical protestantism, e.g. 'dry' states, prohibition, etc.

The USA has the same climate as southern Europe or Africa, and is very activity oriented. Irish weather is very often awful for weeks, and this keeps everyone indoors. Nowadays, we can go to the mall, but 300 years ago, we weren't even allowed to play the pipes, go to mass, wear Irish clothes, or speak the Irish language.

There are much worse stereotypes of the Irish than merely drinking.

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