A love of a nice glass of stout makes me feel closer to generations of my family.
Glass of Guinness on pub table
Credit: Getty Images / Ailbhe O'Donnell

Last year, as bars and restaurants around the U.S. shut down in mid-March because of coronavirus restrictions, I missed my annual tradition of going out to an Irish bar for a pint of Guinness to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. And while I am still not going to bars, I plan to pick up some cans of Guinness to raise a glass this year, and I'll be remotely toasting my mom, siblings and extended family. 

I have some Irish heritage on my Mom's side—the "O" in my byline stands for O'Niell (yes, with that unusual spelling). And while I don't know a lot about my Irish relatives who came to the United States, like many people who have Irish heritage, I have a fondness for lots of things from the Emerald Isle, including the country's cheese, butter and especially its most famous beer. 

When it comes to drinking a glass of Guinness for the holiday (or just for the hell of it), I feel a connection to Ireland, but even more strongly I feel a bond with my immediate family. We all love a good pint—or a small glass, in the case of the lightweights like my Mom—and I have many fond memories of sharing Guinness with them.

So when I crack open a can of Guinness Draught this St. Patrick's Day, I'll be thinking of drinking a pint with my sister Kirsten, aunt Jacqueline and Mom on a trip to Ireland in 2006 (while my niece, Marianne, raised a glass of water because she was too young for beer at the time), and with my sister Rebecca at Molly's Shebeen when she visited me in New York City (the best pint of Guinness in New York, if you ask me), or with my brother, Jimmy, while playing cards on trips to our family home in Baton Rouge (where, by the way, there's a pretty great Mardi Gras-style St. Patrick's Day parade in non-pandemic times). 

Because we're spread out all over the country, I haven't seen any of those family members in person in over a year, so it'll be a somewhat bittersweet pint and a virtual toast. But being separated from my loved ones makes honoring family traditions seem more important than ever, and a virtual toast with a can—rather than a hand-pulled pint—of stout is better than no toast at all.Sláinte to you and yours this St. Patrick's Day—and here's hoping we'll all be safely raising a glass in person with those we love in the not-too-distant future.