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I’m an Irish citizen, but I knew little about my culture.

One of my fathers emigrated at a very young age, but I rarely saw him as I aged. We lived in different areas of Canada, and he was no longer with my mother. As a result, my knowledge of my culture was minimal: potatoes, alcohol and the Irish Republican Army. For awhile, this was acceptable to me, but over time, I struggled with a lack of identity.


a cluster of shamrocks
TheDigitalArtist

I tried to catch up on my own time, researching the history of Ireland. I spent plenty of afternoons looking up Ireland’s pagan roots, and learning about what it meant to be Celtic. But it didn’t really help: I still couldn’t relate. Its paganism is very minor, as Catholicism reigns dominant. I am not Catholic, so I couldn’t fit myself in there.

But what about speech? I can’t speak any Gaelic, and I understand one Irish slang term: craic (“tea,” gossip, etc.). No matter how much I tried to understand the language, I consistently struggled.

What, then, of holidays? The most “Irish” holiday in Canada is easily St. Patrick’s day, but it’s celebrated more seriously and with feasts in Ireland. Regardless of how much I begged my mother, she wasn’t willing to cook these beautiful and elaborate meals, and so I was left, once again, without a concrete identity.


Woman slicing tomatoes
Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

Eventually, I grew tired of chasing what it meant to be Irish. I gave up completely. No more studying, no more history, nothing at all. I accepted that I was never going to understand my heritage and left it at that.

And yet, my curiosity persisted. By then, I was in university and was independent. I brought back my search and remembered the many years I struggled. It sounds like a cliché, but the answer was always inside of me.

I’ve always been Irish in my own unique way. My name is Irish, like three of my younger half-siblings. I watch some Irish cinema and read some literature, and have a decent understanding of their (and my own!) history. I make my own feast every St. Patrick’s and my partner and I adore my Irish cuisine. My aunt even sent me a family recipe for Guinness beef stew and every time I visit the other side of my family, they get me to make a double batch. 

I may not understand all of the subtleties, but then again, I’m not 100 percent Irish. I’m allowed to be a beautiful mix of Canadian and Irish, and I carry this duality with pride.

There are certainly some, both Canadian and Irish, who scoff at this, and that’s okay. Identities can be difficult, and I do the best I can with my circumstances. Multiple people have tried to discount myself by saying everyone who claims to have Irish heritage only has it from their great-great grandparents, and refuse to accept my citizenship as valid. But, who cares? The government and, more importantly, I consider myself to be Irish.


airplane view
Photo by Ross Parmly on Unsplash

I hope to one day expand my understanding and welcome more aspects into my life. I hope to meet more family members and learn more about that part of me. I’m Irish, and I’m also Canadian. I’m a dual citizen, with dual cultures, and I love it.

 

Kaitlin is a bilingual (French and English) writer originating from friendly Thunder Bay. They are in their seventh year at York University, where they study professional writing with an emphasis on journalism. They live with their partner of nine years and their cat, Tessa. They started writing with a passion and a poem that eventually won third in a contest 12 years ago, and started editing not too long after. When not at the keyboard, Kaitlin can be found reading, cooking, playing video games, or holding Tessa. Their favorite movies are scary and their favorite television genre is reality. Kaitlin's passions include copyediting, anything scary or spooky and adding to her collection of dolls, magnets and cups. Their favorite part of writing/editing is giving others a chance to share their story or achieve their dreams and offering insight on "the little things." Some of Kaitlin's favorite topics reflect on their personal life, including health/disabilities, fringe topics and social issues.
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