You Know You’re Irish-American When…

Although I’d argue that I’m just plain American (even if I have ancestors who were from somewhere else), this time of year I can’t help but notice that there are a few things that set apart Americans from Irish backgrounds.  Irish-Americans are also different from Irish people, and if you’re reading this from Ireland most of these items won’t sound familiar to you. Yes, Irish-Americans are their own weird little subculture. Are you a part of it?

You know you’re Irish-American when…

  • As soon as you were old enough to count to three, you were old enough to count to “one two three, two two three, three two three.”

  • Not only have you been to a feis and a ceilidh, you can spell and pronounce both.
  • You have siblings or cousins with the following names: Molly, Megan, Caitlin, Shannon, Erin, Katie, Kelly, Sean, Ryan, Brian, Kevin, Patrick. Nope, those aren’t all Irish names. Doesn’t matter.
  • The men in your family – above a certain age – all wear those flat tweed caps.


    As a kid, one of my non-Irish-American friends remarked that my dad always wears a beret.

  • You have at least one acquaintance with the same first and last name as another famous Irish-American. For instance, my cousin shares a name with Shannen Doherty (but spelled differently), and my Irish dance teacher was Eddie Murphy (… he’s Irish, right?).
  • Your grandmother (even if she was a Republican) idolized JFK until the day she died.
  • To this day, your aunts use “he looks like JFK” as the ULTIMATE compliment.

    I think I almost got blacklisted from the family when I said he “just looks like a regular guy.” Now JFK Jr., on the other hand…

  • You have attended a funeral where nobody was named Danny. Danny Boy was sung anyway.

  • You, or someone in your family, would argue to the grave that Danny Boy and When Irish Eyes Are Smiling are NOT real Irish songs.
  • By the time you were 6, you owned a piece of claddagh jewelry, knew the whole story behind it, and could identify what the different parts symbolized.
  • You cringe when non-Irish friends say that they bought a claddagh for themselves. The horror!
  • Someone in your family is still really pissed at the English. Like, more than you expect contemporary people in Ireland to be.
  • And they’re probably really jazzed about the centennial of the Easter Uprising, too.
  • You own at least one of those itchy sweaters, probably more, purchased every time somebody in your family goes to Ireland.

    Accurate, except where are the rest of the kids?

  • You have had to set friends straight on the proper way to make tea. You have all but given up on ordering tea out. Thanks for the lukewarm water that I’m supposed to, um … dunk?… a tea bag in, though?

St. Saoirse Of Irish-America.

  • Christmas shopping is easy because you have one relative who collects Belleek, Connemara Marble, or Waterford Crystal.


  • As a child, you believed in –  and were terrified of – leprechauns, fairies or banshees.

    Scarred for life.

  • You know EXACTLY what I’ll tell me ma.
  • You had your first drink at the AOH (that’s Ancient Order of Hibernians to outsiders).
  • All of your uncles have retained their childhood nicknames within the family: Danny, Tommy, Jimmy, Mickey, etc.
  • Even if you aren’t super into St. Patrick’s Day, people assume you are and practically congratulate you when the holiday rolls around.
  • You have at least one family ginger.


    … or a few.

  • You also have family lore about Black Irish (read: why your one brother has black hair).
  • There was a shillelagh and a St. Brigid’s Cross hanging in your house growing up.

    Bowl of fire entirely optional.

  • If you have the stereotypical Irish phenotype – freckles, light skin, light eyes, red hair – strangers ALWAYS tell you you must be “very Irish.” Which is weird because isn’t “very Irish” like… from Ireland? And everything else is not very Irish?

Literally me.

  • You were the family with the big bottle of sensitive skin-formula SPF 50. In the Northeast. In March. 
  • There are four or more children in your family. You have described it as a “small family.”
  • Listing all of your nieces and nephews’ names in order, properly, in one breath, is practically a party trick.
  • You grit your teeth when someone says St. Patty’s Day. Or Corn Beef.
  • Family parties: light on the food, heavy on the booze.
  • You, or someone in your family, has a first or last name that other Americans cannot spell or pronounce.
  • You have corned beef and cabbage around St. Patrick’s Day, but that isn’t the only time of the year that you eat boiled meat.
  • If you didn’t go to Catholic school, you went to CCD. Meaning you were one of those kids who used to get into our desks every Sunday.
  • And I’m not saying Irish-Americans can hold a grudge, but that was TWENTY YEARS AGO.
  • Irish Catholic guilt trips are real.
  • So is the Irish Goodbye. Every gathering wraps up with a round of “wait, when did Aunt Whoever leave?”



4 thoughts on “You Know You’re Irish-American When…

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