St. Patrick’s Day from an Irish Perspective

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Once more from the top.

St. Patrick’s Day is either referred to as St. Patrick’s Day or Paddy’s Day. Those are the only acceptable terms. St. Pat’s Day, St. Patty’s Day, any and all of the other variations… they make Irish people feel so unclean they need to scour with wire brushes just to scrape off the horror. Please don’t use them. Please. PLEASE.

In addition, it’s shamrock we use, not clover. These are same, same, but different. Shamrock has three leaves, clover has four. Shamrock is what we use on St. Patrick’s Day because legend has it that St. Patrick used the plant to explain the holy Trinity to the pagans of Ireland. He used the one stalk and three leaves to demonstrate how the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit were all one.

You see now why clover doesn’t quite fit the bill; that pesky extra leaf really gets in the way of the story.

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Not this one.

St. Patrick’s Day is a day when the world seems to almost become more Irish than the Irish themselves. Little leprechaun hats, and Kiss Me I’m Irish t-shirts, and green-tinted sunglasses, and shamrock badges, and face paint, and all sorts appear on the streets of Dublin city, and all of these things are almost exclusively draped on tourists. Here’s the thing; the only Irish people you tend to see in Dublin city centre on St. Patrick’s Day are either parents with small children, or small children. The rest of the population has scattered, bunkered down in their homes to survive the touristocalypse. Usually this is done with a decent amount of alcohol and some friends. I myself can’t remember the last time I went into town on St. Patrick’s Day. At most, I’ll wear green eyeliner on the day and listen to some U2 and Sinead O’Connor.

When you’re a wee thing, the St. Patrick’s Day parade is a great day out. Usually raining, you drag your parents out to stand in the cold. You watch smiling American baton-twirlers in woefully weather-inappropriate clothing file past while clenching their teeth to stop them from chattering. There are giant floats, and someone usually presses some Cadbury’s Roses into your hand, and you can usually expect to find a tatty cowboy hat and some green beads in the gutter. Afterwards, you go home beaming.

Your parents usually trail behind in a noticeably less enthusiastic fashion, holding all the junk you’ve collected off the ground. This is later disposed of surreptitiously while you’re turned the other way.

After a while though, you realise that actually the parade is not worth leaving your house for, especially since they televise the whole thing. You get a much better view from your comfortable couch at home than five people deep in a crowd full of soaked, screaming children. The day is a national holiday, and we definitely take good advantage of that fact, but we like to leave Temple Bar to the tourists who arrive in droves every year to drink pints on the cobblestones.

It’s nice to see people from all over celebrating our tiny island. When you zoom out a bit, it’s pretty incredible that today, people all over are enjoying our culture, or at least their idea of it. I mean, we don’t have a day of the year when we all celebrate Portugal, for example, or the state of Indiana. Both of these are roughly the same size as Ireland. It’s lovely that Irish people have traveled enough and made enough of an impact globally to have this day of green-hued shenanigans. It makes me feel quite proud, actually, when I think about it that way.

So happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! In uncharacteristically cheesy fashion I’ll add a little  old Irish blessing here for you:

May your neighbors respect you,
Trouble neglect you,
The angels protect you,
And heaven accept you.

…Now where’s my green eyeliner?