I’ve been in Ireland now just over seven years, and today marks my seventh St Patrick’s Day. St Patrick was a Welshman much credited with the removal of snakes from the Emerald Isle and the introduction of Christianity. Whether or not this was a good thing remains largely debated.
My first Paddy’s Day back in 2007 was spent sitting in the rarefied atmosphere of “the stands” from where the great and the good view the parade. It was a freezing cold day; I was underdressed; and I spent most of my time trying to leach body heat from the man next to me, much to the irritation of his wife on his other side. ‘Twas here that I learned my first valuable lesson about the Irish.
They do not believe in the time clock (and wives don’t like you cuddling up to their husbands, even if it is for survival).
An hour late, the parade was finally underway with a mixture of traditional Irish dancing, American marching bands and an eclectic mix of cultural displays from the many communities that comprise modern Ireland.
I spent the remainder of the afternoon and all of the night in Temple Bar, with a colleague and 15,000 of my closest pals, drinking Guinness and watching rugby. It was the next day that I learned my second valuable lesson.
Guinness does not give you hangovers. Booya!
Celebrating this most iconic of Irish holidays in Dublin should be the pinnacle of any drunken backpacker’s Eurail trip, but interestingly, most of the traditions we associate with this festival are American inventions. From the wearing ‘o the green, through green beer and other random foodstuffs to the parades, Ireland sadly cannot take credit. In fact, I’ve seen more Irish patriotism in Columbus, Ohio (and it’s aptly named suburb of Dublin) than I have in downtown Baile Átha Cliath. Indeed, most Irish look at the lavish American celebrations and wonder if they are understood around the world to be little more than red-headed drunken leprechauns.
So what do the Irish actually do on St Patrick’s Day? Well, if you’re a Dub, you start by getting the hell out of dodge. The place is so infested with slow-walking, gawping tourists, road closures and drunken revellers that the best place to be is anywhere else. Indeed, in previous years, friends looked with pity upon us when we optimistically said “no, we’re staying in town”. So this year, we’re going to a farm in the countryside to commune with nature and soak up the sun. Don’t snigger – it did not rain anywhere in Ireland today, and we now really sympathise with the drought-stricken Aussie farmers. Solidarity, man.
For many Irish, St Patrick’s Day is less a day of nationalistic celebration and more a day to catch up with family and friends. In times past, people would don Shamrock and then, after getting drunk at the local pub, they’d beat each other with black thorn sticks. Thankfully, the celebrations today are much more diverse, and a hell of a lot less violent, and Dublin’s amazing St Patrick’s Day festival includes cultural, literary and family activities across the weekend. Local communities also organise their own festivities, and whilst there is still a fair amount of drink, to be fair, every day is a good day for Guinness!
So whilst for some Paddy’s Day might be just an excuse to get blathered, and for others it’s just an extra day to sleep in, there is nevertheless one thing upon which we all agree:
For the love of god, it’s not St Patty’s Day.
America, I’m looking at you. Indeed, you know shit’s serious when Dublin Airport starts circulating public service announcements!
And just in case you mistake the above sign for Irish understatement and charm, think again ….
It effin’ annoys the bejesus out of us!
Happy St Patrick’s Day!
Do you celebrate St Patrick’s Day in any way? Or are you a fan of all things Irish?