Earlier this week I noticed the following update on a friend's Facebook Wall:
I wanna know how cabbage at Kroger goes on sale on Sunday for $0.37 and is all sold out by Monday?!? Seriously, sold out... How are these women on the ball like that? I need to step up my game!"
St Patty's Day is Thursday girl! You know us Irish folk don't play when it comes to our cornbeef and cabbage! You probably got punked by a gang of Irish grandmas!
Now I must admit, before marrying my husband, the extent of my Saint Patrick's Day celebration was digging out a green accessory to avoid serial pinching on the school bus. Since marrying into a large, Irish family, I've grown a greater appreciation for the holiday because I see how much pride my husband's family takes in celebrating its ethnic heritage (particularly on Saint Patrick's). Although most dialogue around interracial relationships focuses on differences, in the spirit of Saint Patty's Day, I thought I'd reflect on some of the quirky commonalities between our families of origin that we've noticed over the years.
10. Lots of People Have the Same Name
Meeting my husband's extended family for the first time was like the "meet the parents'' scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding without the tiki torches, music, and whole baby lamb roasting over a spit in the backyard. In the movie, the bride's father begins to introduce his siblings, their children (all named Anita, Diane, and Nick) and rounds out the introductions with “Nick, Nick, Nick, Nick, Nick, Nick, Nick, Nicky, and Gus." The Irish version is Jim, Jim, Jim, Jimmy, Jim, and James and the Nigerian version would include at least three or four of guys nicknamed "Tunde" or "Olu."
9. A "Complicated" Relationship With Great Britain
Considering the history of the "modern" World, who doesn't have a complicated relationship with Great Britain? During our last large family gathering one of my uncles-in-law made a joke about the family really being British and my grandparents-in-law were not amused.
8. Racial and Ethnic Discrimination
Aside from slaves and indentured servants, most Irish and Nigerian families in the United States have the common bond of immigration. My husband's ancestors came to America due to a potato famine while my parents came to secure educational opportunity for themselves and their children. Although life in the America proved to be a vast improvement over conditions back home, my husband and I know stories from our respective families about the discrimination they faced like being called "N---er" for the first time and seeing "Irish Need Not Apply" signs in front of businesses that were hiring.
7. The Color Green
Nigerians love the color green. The Nigerian flag is, after all, green-white-green. Ireland is also known as "The Emerald Isle," shamrocks are green, the uniforms for the Boston Celtics are green, and the Notre Dame mascot wears some green too!
Except for Heineken, you'd be hard pressed to find any other beer at a Nigerian party besides Guinness. And if my husband and I are in an Irish pub, I think technically its sacrilegious for him to order anything else. Guinness has been brewed in Nigeria since the 1960s and allegedly, Nigeria drinks more Guinness than Ireland!
This probably ties back to #9. Outside of the World Cup, there are only two places I watch soccer: 1) A Nigerian Party or 2) An Irish Pub.
A few weeks ago I was listening to a North Carolina Public Radio interview with Enuma Okoro, author of Reluctant Pilgrim: A Moody, Somewhat Self-Indulgent Introvert's Search for Spiritual Community (a great read which I highly recommend) who spent part of her childhood in Nigeria. During the interview, the host mistakenly referred to Nigeria as "a Muslim country." While I sucked my teeth and rolled my eyes at what I perceived as a lack of diligent preparation on the part of the interviewer, Enuma graciously clarified that Nigeria is a country of diverse faiths largely (though not entirely) divided among geographic and tribal lines: the Muslim Hausa in the North, the Christian/Anglican Yoruba in the Southwest, and the Christian/Catholic Igbo in the Southeast.
3. Patron Saints
Piggybacking off of Number 3, Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and Nigeria. Clearly the connection between the two countries is on a deep, spiritual level.
2. We Roll Deep
Nigerians call them "tribes." The Irish call them "clans." Whatever label you use, what matters is that you never walk alone.
1. Mating With Each Other
The summer before my husband and I were engaged, I was living at home with my parents while interning in Washington, DC and my husband (then boyfriend) was interning in Northwest Virginia. He would spend the weekends with me and my family, experiencing the fullness of "Party Season" among Nigerians in the DC/Maryland/Virginia area. The season runs from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend and my parents' social calendar stays jam-packed with graduation ceremonies, engagement ceremonies, weddings, cook-outs, Yoruba festivals, anniversary celebrations, and birthday parties. That summer most of our outings were wedding related, and we began running into more and more interracial couples. About a year later we were planning our own wedding and knew three or four other couples that consisted of Nigerian-American girls marrying Irish guys from the East Coast. At one point it got so creepy that my mom confronted me in the kitchen (in a very loving, motherly way of course), asking me to explain this "phenomenon among you young people." I assured her that I was much too busy planning a wedding and studying for the Bar Exam to execute a large-scale, national, interracial hook-up conspiracy.
To all of you who are celebrating, Happy Saint Patrick's Day! And if you make it to the Southie (South Boston) Parade on Sunday, I'll be the Black lady wearing the "Kiss Me, I'm Irish" button.