Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Saint Patrick’s Day. Paddy’s Day. “What’s in a name?” Juliet asked Romeo. William Shakespeare replied with “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” And so is the legend and the life of St Patrick.

Patrick was a lovely Roman-British chap who found his way to Ireland as a young slave in the 5th century AD, before escaping a few years later, only to return shortly after. His yearly festivities in Ireland usually mean alcohol, pubs, being so plastered people forget which town they’re from and parades of all things colourful and typically Irish. Paddy himself was somewhat of a celebrity as he converted Ireland from being a pagan country to a Catholic one, or so it’s been reported. In reality most of Ireland was already converted, or in the process of being so by means of another well-meaning lad. Paddy became the ‘First Primate of Ireland’ but obviously not the zoological kind of primate.

Forgive me for giggling here but Wiki mentions that “Saint Patrick’s Day is observed on March 17, the date of his death” (so far so good). “It is celebrated both inside and outside Ireland, as both a liturgical and non-liturgical holiday. In the dioceses of Ireland, it is both a solemnity and a holy day of obligation; outside Ireland, it can be a celebration of Ireland itself.” And here is where the giggles really kick in. “Solemnity?” Really?! “Holy day of obligation?!”

Of my 11 St Paddy’s Days in Ireland, I’ve been to the Dublin street parade a few times, only to escape town right after it. Pubs and shops selling alcohol are open before the parade finishes meaning that you see drunk kids, women flaunting their balconies and matching pints of whatever, and men trying to get it on with the opposite sex, and all this in a hazy blur of what St Patrick stood for.

Thankfully not every Irish person is like this and with the very slow cerebral march of Ireland waking up to its relation with alcohol, a lot of Irish people now want to see pubs and shops selling alcohol closed until about 5pm. Leave already drunk people in a pub for 10 hours and you can probably imagine what St Patrick’s Day really looks like in Dublin. I myself have seen kids not older than 13-14 years old walking – slaloming really – their way through town, carrying half-empty bottles of vodka. Parental guidance gone. Totally. Probably stuck in a pub somewhere themselves.

The Irish Independent wrote on Thursday that “alcohol consumption, when placed in the context of Ireland, becomes instantly romanticised, attributed to one’s underlying Celtic soul. Ireland is synonymous with alcohol; although Ireland boasts world heritage sites, Titanic museums and the birth and death sites of numerous authors and poets, its most popular tourist attraction is the Guinness Storehouse.” I can only hope that the slow awakening to the Irish drinking culture will at least save a few lives, and see tourists and Irish people alike go out to the countryside to see what Ireland is about. To me it’s shocking that a country so beautiful and diverse as Ireland has a beer-producing company as its biggest tourist attraction. I know I am totally biased because of my love for Ireland and my non-drinking attitude, but I get lyrical when I think of Irish history, its nature, its people and its culture. Ireland deserves better than being associated with alcohol 24/7.

For these reasons, a lot of people escape Dublin on March 17th because they just don’t want to be around this anymore. The sad thing however is that people from abroad come to Ireland to “experience” St Patrick’s Day the Irish way… only to leave the island half broke and totally disillusioned. I have friends who swear never to celebrate Mr P’s day in Dublin again and I myself would not want my own family to see how things are. Surely there are better parties going on in small towns and villages around Ireland to celebrate a man who showed pagans what the holy trinity was by using a three-leaf clover. Not a four-leaf one mind you, that is one very bad interpretation, it has to be a three-leaf clover otherwise the trinity will make no sense.

Saint Patrick baptised thousands of people but again that is probably a bit of an over-statement. He ordained priests to lead the new Christian communities. He converted wealthy women, some of whom became nuns in the face of family opposition. He also dealt with the sons of kings, converting them too. Patrick, the British foreigner that he was (he is said to be of the north-west of England, of Cumbria), did not have an easy time in Ireland and if we’d have known that the British crown would send in thousands of its citizens after him to capture Ireland centuries later, then maybe it would have been nice of Paddy to warn us in advance.

He also, according to legend, banished all snakes in Ireland but in reality snakes were here before the last ice age and they didn’t survive that bit of Mr. Freeze. It was easy ‘banishing’ something that was not present anymore.  The man may have been powerful, but he was not God and even God could not do something so supernatural, otherwise he would have banished spiders also. Other legends attached to good ol’ Paddy are that he met some old, mythical Irish warriors but methinks he just had too much rain on his cloak and had cold feet. Walking around for miles in wind, rain and wearing leaking shoes in Irish hills can play tricks on your mind. Been there, done that you see.

One last thing though… wherever you will celebrate St Patrick’s Day, it is not called St Patty’s Day, and it’s not written with two -TTs. It is Paddy and not Patty. Aaaaaaaaargh my skin crawles when I hear people say ‘Patty’!!! If there is one thing that gets my back up on Paddy’s Day, it’s people referring to it as Patty’s Day. No way. Never in a million years. Paddy, or Pádraig in Irish, is still a very widely used first name, with Paddy being the preferred nickname.

March 17th is now mainly known as a big national piss-up, meaning a very drunk party, but at least Paddy came over here with good intentions, unlike his fellow countrymen centuries later.

And my own Paddy’s Day? I will spend it with listening to Irish traditional music, watching Irish films, reading Irish books, watching the parade on television while eating a big bowl of popcorn. And the day after? MS pains will be there, but at least I won’t have a hangover!

Lá Fhéile Pádraig!

© WVE and Ireland, MS and Me, 2011-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to WVE and Ireland, MS and Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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