Welcome one and all to the most dissolute religious festival in Ireland. I mean, people say Christmas has been commercialised, but at least that’s in the form of giving and receiving gifts – and we’ll all generally pop into the church to say hi to the baby Jesus. But what exactly about aul man Padraig connects with the truly legendary drinkfest that is St Patrick’s Day?
How you celebrate a holiday is an extension of what it’s about. Christmas is family and charity; Valentine’s Day is about love, so lots of romantic dinners and a five hundred percent mark-up on chocolate; Americans have Thanksgiving, family again – an easy theme to slot in. But what is St Patrick’s Day about, other than just simply being Christian. Snakes?
So if we don’t know what we’re about, we don’t really know what to do and you get a big mish-mash of events: parades, mass, carnivals, and on and on. It’s no wonder everyone ends up in the pub, they’re bloody confused.
Dublin pulls it off quite well I’ll admit. It’s an impressive display that they put on every year, one that draws people from all over the country. Not like New York, they try too hard, it’s very gauche. You’re not Irish if your great-great-great-something crossed the puddle in the 1840s, ok? Plus, green beer? Ugh.
The worst place to be on St Patrick’s Day is in that category of town that’s just big enough to think they ought to have a parade, but can’t really put one together. Seeing one, maybe two floats put together by primary school kids leading a procession of the local emergency services is just depressing. Look, there’s even a hearse that joined in by mistake because of the atmosphere. That kind of sight sends everyone where? You guessed it.
For those looking for a more lively celebration in Dublin, the only piece of advice I can offer is to avoid Temple Bar. The most vibrant spot for Dublin nightlife, on any given weekend Temple Bar is packed. No fancy metaphor or analogy, it’s just really full. On “Paddy’s Day”, the most celebrated holiday in Ireland, where visitors flood into Dublin from around the country and the world, maybe give it a miss. On a good night out I personally am a fan of things like being able to move, or breathing air that’s less than half other people’s sweat. Maybe that’s just me though. It could be your thing.
Of course I’ve only covered Ireland. Emigration is the closest thing Ireland has to a national pastime, and everywhere we go we take Paddy’s Day with us. So there are celebrations in London, New York, Chicago, Munich, and… Shanghai? Huh. In a lot of cases it’s not even centred around diaspora any more. People are just taken with the idea of a holiday that’s simply a big party, without the effort that goes into Carnivale, or Mardi Gras. And every year the Taoiseach goes to America to visit the White House in a show of unity and support for the massive Irish community in the U.S. In honour of that special celebration he takes a gift both meaningful and laden with history… a bowl of salad.
-By Briain Kelly
Image from Good Food Ireland blog.