A glance at Bret Currie’s cartoon reminds us that today is St Patrick’s Day.
Actually no, it’s not – that was yesterday – Friday March 17 – but us Irish being great exaggerators, we’ve turned it into a St Patrick’s Weekend so we can still say Happy St Patrick’s Day today.
And the good Irish folk in Brisbane have gone one step further and created the concept of St Patrick’s Week with their annual St Patrick’s Day parade held on Saturday, March 11.
Well, I suppose any excuse to have a party is a good one.
As a native Irish born I sometimes look with amusement (and bemusement) at how big St Patrick’s Day has become across the world.
I remember growing up in Waterford where as a good young Catholic boy St Patrick’s Day was first and foremost a holy day of obligation which was a fancy way of saying you had to go to mass on that day or risk spending eternity in hell (given how long and dull some of the priests’ sermons were in those days, that was a risk I was sometimes prepared to take).
But once religious observations were over it was a day to celebrate.
In Ireland it was early spring which meant it was usually bloody cold and as often as not, raining.
But that didn’t stop us from heading to the main street in town and finding the best position for the parade.
As well as being cold and wet, there was an agonisingly dull hour of waiting (even duller than the church homilies) and then it was all over in a flash.
The adults retired to the pub for the day while the kids went off and did their thing.
Nothing much has changed these days except no one would dream of letting their children wander the streets unaccompanied for hours on end.
And the Irish festival has been exported across the world.
I’ve had a pint of Guinness in Irish bars from Rome to Romania (an experience I hope I never have to repeat), I’ve watched with horror as North Americans rename the day “St Pattys” and enjoyed many a Paddy’s Day in Australia where everyone is half Irish anyway, at least for one day.
Lá fhéile Pádraig sona daoibh. (I’m not swearing at you, honest!) DB