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For St Patty's Day: Celebrate the "Irish Goodby"!

A Thousand Silent Farewells

The ‘Irish goodbye’ is a great way to leave a party—and not only on St. Patrick’s Day.

By Mike Kerrigan

March 16, 2022 6:13 pm ET


As a proud Irish-American and lover of all things Gaelic, I have much to celebrate this St. Patrick’s Day. And rightly so: The contributions to civilization by the sons and daughters of Éire are too many to count.


Let others praise for good cause the virtues of Yeats, Irish whiskey, Donegal tweed and the Chieftains. Today I celebrate a different, no less meaningful, Celtic benefaction: the Irish goodbye.


For the uninitiated, an Irish goodbye is the silent and early departure from a large social gathering without formally alerting the host. The smaller the gathering, the riskier the tactic. It’s verboten at sit-down dinner parties, and rarely a good idea to attempt at your own soirée. (I’ve tried.)


Curious, but not sure you’re up to it? Try it at a St. Patrick’s Day celebration, where you can learn from the masters.


Observe the room: You’ll never see so many people predisposed to the maneuver all in one place, planning their early exits. Notice how they place their coats strategically on the backs of their chairs for easy exfiltration. Watch couples in cahoots communicate across the room, signaling silently like batters and third-base coaches.


They can do it, and so can you. Just remember, leaving too early is thoughtless, staying too long positively imperial. Neither suits the Gaelic temperament. The Irish goodbye seeks a balance born of fatalism: That’s enough fun, lock in your gains, things can only get worse from here.


If as host you find some guests have bid you an Irish goodbye, don’t think it rude. The silently departed know your reputation for warmth of heart and hearth—they’re sparing you the burden of exit pleasantries.


Properly understood, the Irish goodbye isn’t only an act of kindness but something good for you. Perfecting it may—and this is no overstatement—be critical to your salvation. Consider the famous Irish blessing:


“May your glass be ever full. May the roof over your head be always strong. And may you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.”


Don’t you see? All these silent slink-offs are practice so that when you leave this world, you do it the right way: by giving the devil himself the Irish goodbye.


Mr. Kerrigan is an attorney in Charlotte, N.C.

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