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St Patrick’s 2016

“I love my country but I find St Patrick’s Day embarrassing”

Pic 13
Getting into the spirit at the London St Patrick’s Day festival and parade (Photo: Malcolm McNally)

CLOSE your eyes and think of St Patrick’s Day…what comes to mind?

Is it Ireland’s untouched natural beauty, our reputation as a nation of world-class writers, singers and poets, our embattled history, our heritage?

Nope, chances are you think of the same things that I do – radioactive shades of green, leprechaun outfits, silly shamrock hats, silly shamrock t-shirts, silly shamrock sunglasses and beer.

More St Patrick’s 2016:

Don’t get me wrong, I like silliness, and I really like beer, but should creepy gold-hoarding little green men really be the first thing that comes into your mind when you think of your country’s national holiday?

Actually, there is one other thing that comes to mind when you mention St Patrick’s Day and that my friends, is drinking.

Despite the fact that the Irish are nowhere near the heaviest drinkers in the world (according to a 2015 WHO report we don’t even make the top 10) and in Europe we come 4th (after Belarus, Andorra and Lithuania), you don’t tend to get T-shirts like this one (below) about the Belarusians doing yoga, do you?

irish-yoga-t-shirt-26 2

I’m not saying for a second that St Patrick’s Day should be a solemn day devoted to practising the harp or mending thatch roofs, but when did it turn into an excuse for the whole world to get hammered using the Irish an excuse?

Back at home, people tend to feel conflicted about St Pat’s too.

First of all, no gives a toss about the snake-charming fella himself (we might have coloured a few pictures of him in at school but that’s it).

In fairness, the parades in Ireland have come on leaps and bounds since I was a kid on my dad’s shoulders. It’s not just a few crappy floats anymore, but while it’s a nice thing to take the kids to see if it’s not pouring rain, it’s not got much to do with our national identity does it?

There is one thing we all agree about though – we all like a day off on March 17 so cheers for that St Pat.

And yet, I know so many people in Ireland who avoid the pub like the plague on St Patrick’s Day, why?

Because they know it will be carnage by 8pm.

Outside of Ireland, St Patrick’s Day is a different ball game. New York goes all out for an epic parade, Chicago dies it’s flipping river green and the Sunday before the day itself, central London shuts down to celebrate all things Irish.

Except that’s the problem. St Patrick’s Day doesn’t celebrate all things Irish – it really only pays tribute to a simplistic, paddywhacked version of Ireland.

I don’t blame anyone from China to Chicago for buying into the St Pat’s ‘craic’, because really what could be easier than chucking something green on and having a few beers?

And there are positives of course – tourism; it brings millions to the economy in Ireland and I’m not just talking sales of ‘Kiss me I’m Irish T-shirts’ .

In 2013, Fáilte Ireland reckoned St Pat’s generated an estimated €121million for the economy with the average tourist forking €696 over their stay.

The website attributes the large spike in searches to St Patrick's Day. (RollingNews.ie)
A whole lotta leprechauns (RollingNews.ie)

Aside the numbers, there is an undeniable feel good factor about St Pat’s – it’s pretty amazing, unbelievable even, that people the world over want to be Irish for a day, but do we want them to think of a caricatured version of Ireland, one of drunks and pots of gold that we’ve fought so hard against all these years?

I don’t know the answer. Maybe I need to lighten up, or maybe we all need to take ourselves more seriously.

What I do know is that I’m incredibly proud to be Irish born and bred, and living in London for the past six years has only made me love home even more.

Still, I won’t be singing The Wild Rover with a tricolour wrapped ’round my shoulders in the pub tonight, because it’s the one day of the year I feel like more like an outsider looking in.

What do you think? Share your comments below or on Facebook or Twitter 

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Katy Harrington
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Katy Harrington is Digital and Features Editor at The Irish Post. Follow her on Twitter @tweetkatyh

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6 comments on ““I love my country but I find St Patrick’s Day embarrassing””

  1. Sara Maria

    Oh dear what a dreary piece .

    Likes(9)Dislikes(1)
  2. Leo

    As an Irish descendant living in London, I will wear green today, in memory and out of respect for my parents and grand parents and for what they achieved, but I won't be wearing a Guinness top hat or visits in a theme pub. Each to their own I suppose.

    Likes(10)Dislikes(1)
  3. Patricia Fitzpatrick Hanson

    Being a first generation American in a sea of varying nationalities, while I don't promote the "its okay to get hammered drunk mentality at all", I think it is a great testimony to remember and celebrate our parents struggle to assimilate into this diverse country. Irish folks have carried their religion and pride to their new homes in the USA and I believe have instilled a real sense of Irish pride in their children. So, the folks who had the courage to leave their homeland and contributed great success to this country should be heralded for the humility and efforts they ambitiously put forth. Slainte!!!

    Likes(4)Dislikes(0)
  4. Maureen

    When I was growing up in Ireland it was Mass, then home for a meal then a small local parade. I don't t think the pubs even opened that day in order to keep it as a Holy Day of Obligation, am I correct in that ? If you gave up sweets for Lent then you could break the fast that day. I liked that part. Even now , living here in the southern US I refuse to join the drunken hordes in Savannah. Just an excuse to get drunk and disgusting.

    Likes(1)Dislikes(1)
  5. Sean Russell

    It`s a diaspora celebration- primarily the diaspora in America and Britain. In Ireland up til recently the pubs were closed and ye were at home watching one and a half channels of RTE. It`s not an Irish celebration -it`s a Diaspora one.
    With Skype and Ryanair living in England or anywhere else abroad does not make you part of the Diaspora. Our story is one the Celtic Tiger cubs will never have to live and they should be glad of that.

    Likes(1)Dislikes(1)
  6. Geraldine Cowan

    Why the Yuppy snobbery about this? I really enjoy dressing up for St Patrick's Day. What's wrong with a bit of friendly fun? The only aspect I didn't like was having people, on the march, leafleting us to vote to stay in Europe. Isn't it strange that the Irish government is keen for us to vote in this way? It's like rich powerful people, both sides of the Irish sea, agree on how we should vote. I want out because of TTIP because I don't wish to be a slave to big business corporations. If that's the European dream then I'll vote to leave. TTIP will kill off what's left of the National Health. I'll vote OUT for FREEDOM!

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