We celebrate St. Patrick’s Day all around the world. When I worked in Geneva the Irish Embassy asked us over for St. Patrick’s Day drinks. Much to the envy of my English friends. Who wondered why the rest of the world didn’t celebrate St. George’s Day with them the way they celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with us?
It is a great day in Ireland. Bigger than Christmas. With parades in every town. The wearing of the shamrock. Which is our national emblem. Family get-togethers. Lots of craic (the Irish word for great fun). And overseas phone calls that go on for ever.
Celebrating is good for us. It adds to our sense of well-being. Of belonging. Of who we are. Of our achievements. And it marks out our year. Brings the family, the community and the Nation together. And the rest of the world celebrates with us.
A Happy People not only on St. Patrick’s Day
We Irish are a happy people. And the rest of the world senses that. So they are happy to join with us in our celebrations. We make them very welcome. Hospitality comes easy to us. We love people and enjoy their company. We feel at home with them. And we know how to make them feel at home with us.
And the financial hardship of recent years does not stop us from being happy. Far from it. As our answer to the World Gallup Poll (2008-2009) question, ‘How happy were you yesterday?’ shows. The Irish came number one. Top of the world. In the gold medal position. Followed by Thailand who were second. And New Zealand who were third.
The Irish answer to World Gallup Poll’s (2005-2011) measure of positive effect (enjoyment, happiness, laughter) was second to Iceland which was in number one place. The answers to both of these polls confirm that the Irish are a happy people. It is official evidence of a well-known fact of life. Both here in Ireland and abroad in the world at large.
St. Patrick’s Day Shamrock
Shamrock is our national emblem. Recognised the world over as the symbol of Ireland. This young clover grows wild throughout Ireland. When I was a schoolboy we collected it in the fields behind our house. And we wore it proudly on our lapels on St. Patrick’s Day. When we went to the crowded church to Mass and Communion. And on our Boy Scout Hat’s when we marched in the St. Patrick”s Day Parade through the streets of Limerick City.
It’s botanical name is Trifolium dubium. History tells us that St Patrick used the three leafed shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity. The three persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in the one god.
The earliest historical references to shamrock describe it as a three-leaved grass, like watercress, that the Irish liked to eat. Then in 1681 and English visitor, Thomas Dinely, recorded the first published account of how the Irish “on March 17th. superstitiously wear shamroges”.
St. Patrick’s Day Harp
The harp is another great Irish emblem. Representing our love of music. And all things musical. Nothing pleases us like music does. I remember open air dances at a crossroad in North County Cork in the early 1950s. The music of violin and squeze-box floating on the night air of mid-summer. As we danced the Walls of Limerick and the Siege of Ennis. It has a magical place in the treasury of my memory.
In my schooldays we wore St. Patrick’s Day badges. Green Harps made from cardboard and green ribbon. That our mothers pinned on our lapels together with a sprig of shamrock. Every child wore one to mark the great occasion.
St. Patrick’s Day Parade
The St Patrick’s Day Parade is not a military parade. It is a fun event. Held in every city and town in Ireland. And in those abroad with large Irish populations. In my day my brothers and myself marched with the Boy Scouts. Along with Brass Bands, Pipe Bands, Fife and Drum Bands, The Order of Malta, The Red Cross, St. John’s Ambulance Brigade and Irish Dancing Schools. The footpaths were filled with onlookers. People you knew cheered, waved and shouted your name as you passed. Audience participation was always a great part of the fun and celebration.
To-days parades are more spectacular with their beautifully artistic floats. Professional performers, trick cyclists and the like. So it is still a fun event. A day out to remember. With people who love to celebrate. With the spectators having as much fun as the performers.
Wetting the St. Patrick’s Day Shamrock
The Irish are famous for their drinking. And the tradition of a St. Patrick’s Day drink is as old as the hills. Having a social celebratory drink can be most enjoyable. Provided we are sensible about it. And we don’t overdo it.
Of course too many Irish people overdo it. One drink leads to another. And when this becomes a regular habit it is tragic for them and for their families. Like any addiction it is all too easy to get into. And very, very difficult to get out of. Which is a sobering thought worth bearing in mind on this great occasion. And every other as well.