When Greg and I were children, we and our families would meet up in his Dad’s office on O’Connell Street to watch the St Patrick’s Day parade. Memory is notoriously unreliable, but what I associate with those parades is an endless procession of army bands and milk floats.
For a long time it seemed as though Paddy’s Day was better celebrated outside Ireland than in; certainly the New York parade was way more elaborate than anything that graced the streets of Dublin. And then it changed. St Patrick’s Day became a weekend, the milk floats were replaced by the likes of Macnas providing spectacular street performances, and the whole world joined in. Sites and buildings such as the Sydney Opera House, the Colosseum, the Shizuoka Stadium in Fukuroi, the Cotton Tree in Freetown, have gone green to celebrate our national holiday. I find this a little bemusing, as I do the fact that I, and many others, send St Patrick’s Day greeting cards – have you ever seen a Bastille Day card or a Canada Day card?
Unlike many other national holidays, the Irish one celebrates a figure rather than an event. Moreover, a rather vague figure, around whom many myths and legends have developed, but about whom actually very little is known. There is a certain irony in that he definitely wasn’t Irish born, and a recent publication, Roy Flechner’s, Saint Patrick Retold: The Legend and History of Ireland's Patron Saint, presents a far more complex figure than the one I grew up with.
But this doesn’t matter. We Irish never let the truth get in the way of a good story, or a lack of detail defer a good party. On this St Patrick’s Day, why not celebrate with us – after all, being Irish is just a state of mind!