How to be Irish for The Gathering – do you have what it takes to pull it off?
An anthropologist expert dissects what it means to be Irish, a highly developed art form
If you’re planning to fit in seamlessly in Ireland this year during The Gathering Ireland 2013 then “How To be Irish: Uncovering the Curiosities of Irish Behaviour” is essential reading.
If you are not planning to gather you may want to release your inner Irish person just for the craic.
You might wonder why a guide is needed. Surely, I imagine you saying, Irishness comes naturally. I used to think that myself because I was born and raised in Ireland and therefore took my highly developed skill of being Irish for granted.
As an anthropologist, I decided to take a closer look at myself, my neighbors, and those who come to Ireland in the hope of becoming one of us: I wanted to see if I could distil out of the complex fabric of our culture exactly what makes us so wonderful - I mean what makes us so unique.
I discovered that being Irish is a highly developed art form. There is just so much that has to be learned.
This is most noticeable when you see blow-ins vainly trying to emulate us by failing to master our Hiberno-English language, which is confusing, like English but isn’t. Our obscure Hiberno-English dialect is the language of the pub. It helps us to exaggerate, avoid public demonstrations of our emotions, and manically communicate with each other over a few pints. Mastering pub life is more fun than getting drunk, which is just a fortunate by-product of spending so much quality time in the pub.
Along with fuelling talk with drink, we have other distinctive dietary requirements, like Tayto crisps, Clonakilty black puddings, and Kimberly and Mikado biscuits, without which we would fade away like Pandas deprived of bamboo shoots.
From my research, I discovered that one of the defining attributes of Irishness is learning how to die an Irish death, which usually takes the forms of peacefully, suddenly, or unexpectedly, as defined by the local newspapers. But if you really must postpone dying you should master the essential skill of attending funerals.
In my book, I show you how to fit in with your fellow mourners, especially if you are expecting a large inheritance. Remember, attending funerals with élan is the hallmark of Irishness. But in Ireland, weddings tend to be a greater source of stress and grief than an Irish funeral. As grumbling guests at both social events point out, you don’t have to bring presents to a funeral. My book provides essential practical tips on how to pose for family photographs while drunk, how to avoid embarrassing speeches if possible, and when is the best time to start that inevitable fight: in other words, how to cope with the Irish wedding in general.
An essential attribute of Irishness that is often taken for granted is the need to learn how to be sick Irish-style. In Ireland illness has been developed into an art form involving distinct interactions with our doctors. There is also that related skill to be mastered – complaining. I provide practical advice on a range of typically Irish ways of being sick including a valuable 12 step guide on how to have that most Irish of experiences, a heart attack. Don’t just be sick in any old way: be sick like an Irish person.