Have you ever heard of an “Irish Thanksgiving”? Photo by: Getty Images/Hemera

Is the expression ‘Irish Thanksgiving’ a racist, stereotypical, slur?


Have you ever heard of an “Irish Thanksgiving”? Photo by: Getty Images/Hemera

Have you ever heard of an “Irish Thanksgiving”? Urban Dictionary defines the phrase as a 12-pack of Guinness to wash down a feast of Boston Market by yourself, in place of the more traditional turkey meal shared with family and friends.

I’m well versed in the typical Irish/ Irish American Thanksgiving, which I’d imagine is nearly no different from the typical American Thanksgiving. I’m thankful to say that Boston Market isn’t involved, nor is Guinness, although Budweiser is never short in supply. The only thing making my family’s “Irish Thanksgiving” markedly Irish is my grandmother offering grace in Irish before we dig into our feast of turkey, potatoes, and turnips.

It’s no news that being Irish is stereotypically linked to having an affection for all things alcohol, making Urban Dictionary’s definition of the slang “Irish Thanksgiving” none too surprising. Urban Dictionary, mind you, offers slang-defined terms often mocking and offensive towards nationality, race, or gender.

What interests me, however, about Urban Dictionary’s definition is that by dubbing the inherently American holiday “Irish,” the definition removes the holiday’s element of time shared with family and friends, which to me remains a staple of the understanding of Irish people today – that of a family-oriented and welcoming people. Sure we’re always up for some craic in any shape or form, and Thanksgiving is a perfect opportunity.

Thanksgiving celebrated with my Irish / Irish-American family always means a house full of people, Irish and non-Irish, and food, Irish and non-Irish. I could never imagine either anyone being turned away from the celebrations, nor anyone opting to be alone with a 12-pack and fast-food for the holiday.

Irish-born seem to have taken to Thanksgiving like almost no other nationality I know of. Family friends of ours who’ve moved back to Ireland from America take the tradition along with them, inviting their Irish friends over for  feasts of turkey on Thanksgiving. “When we lived in Ireland, we celebrated Thanksgiving,” says Rory Gourley, who’s carried the traditionally American holiday between here and Tyrone.

The wonder of the uniquely American holiday of Thanksgiving is that it is nondiscriminatory and isn’t tied to any one religion or ethnicity. Further, it seems to have oddly escaped much of the commercial hoopla that is associated with other holidays, such as Christmas. Materialism isn’t really tied to Thanksgiving in America, but giving thanks with those you love is.

By dubbing Thanksgiving as “Irish” by associating it with isolation and alcohol, one removes all the realistic connotations of what a modern Irish Thanksgiving actually is. For Irish and Irish Americans like myself, Thanksgiving is indeed more about time shared with loved ones rather than the avoidance of family in favor for Guinness and Boston Market.

What do you think? What does your “Irish Thanksgiving” consist of?

* Originally published in 2011.


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