St Patrick’s Day is weird. One: because it’s somehow compulsory and two: because it makes you think that Irish people reproduce like flowers rather than people. Thousands are Irish for March. But where did they come from? It seems that Irish people disperse like seeds in the wind. As for the compulsory thing, it’s a complicated relationship. “Oh I hate you, but I love you, and if I don’t suffer through the celebration then my suffering friends will think I’m strange for not suffering enough”. And it’s all about the suffering. Sure would you look at Peig Sayers.
It’s all about the man himself – St Patrick. “They come in here, stealing our jobs and stealing our women.” In line with this, our patron saint is not Irish. He was stolen or kidnapped, or whatever the technical term is, by a pirate apparently and brought here to farm sheep. Somehow he ended up driving snakes out of the place and converting heathens. Rumour has it he turns in his grave at the thought that Dublin Zoo imported the snakes back in.
Sure it was St Patrick who taught us that a shamrock represents the Holy Trinity, the rugby team and Aer Lingus. He also baptised Fionn mac Cumhaill before he died, tragically, from time travel. You can see him now every March 17th on the end of a float – with added compulsory goat in rural areas.
It’s not just a day for the saints,however. It’s a day for the drink. ‘Uisce beatha’ is the Irish for whiskey – the drink of legends. This translates as “the water of life” so naysayers may naysay all they like but it’s a culture thing.
In a dramatic turn of advertising glory, we salute Arthur in September and we do the same for St Patrick this month. They turn monuments and rivers green worldwide. We puke green bile in the toilets of Supermacs – if, that is, we’re lucky enough to get in. Getting to this state of being Irish is easily achieved. “That’s 6bn euro for your pint sir.” “Thank you good man. Bottle of wine in a field it is.” Thank God, and the United Kingdom Bank Holidays Act 1871, for the Monday off or we’d probably all die and our race would cease to exist.
Alcohol, however, is not just a cultural celebration. It provides the much-needed service of “getting you through the day”, whatever you encounter. When it rains, floats are destroyed, people catch colds and everything and everyone is soggy in general. When it’s sunny, pasty Irish people swelter in the heat and complain about stuffy traffic conditions. The parade is your usual concoction of paper mache, accordions and children playing the tin whistle.
But it’s March. The month of green men, green plants and green drink. We’re proud in an ‘only a mother’s love’ way of our mad Irishness and sure St Patrick was a great lad for the mass after all. And who wouldn’t celebrate that?
Mary Mc Donnell