Reclaiming St. Patrick's Day


It might be a little bit controversial of me to say this - it is our national holiday after all... but... I hate St. Patrick's Day. I'm a total Paddy's Day Grinch. And, as it draws closer and closer, I tend to get grumpier and grumpier about it.


I haven't always been this way. In fact, I have very fond memories of childhood Paddy's days; dressing up in green, white and orange, eating bacon and cabbage and sitting roadside in the rain watching the town parade. In those days, the parade was not the carnival it has evolved into. It mostly consisted of scout troops. dance schools and local business people enthusiastically flinging lollipops, in the general direction of the crowd, from the back of flat-bed trucks. It inevitably culminated in a procession of bin-lorries, half-heartedly festooned with balloons. It wasn't glamorous in the slightest, but we loved it anyway.

After the parade, my parents would hurry us home, encouraging our tired, little legs along the road with promises of green jelly and ice-cream and a chance to see Darby O' Gill and the Little People on TV. Again.

In hindsight, I think the hurry was mostly an effort to avoid having us witness the crazy drunkeness-on-the-streets that Paddy's Day inevitably brings about.


When I grew up a bit, I'm sure I spent a couple of Paddy's Days as one of those crazy drunks... but then my 'proper job' came along and for many years I had to work on the day itself.  The work I did involved hosting a family party in the City Centre. It was fun for the families in attendance - but my family were always elsewhere, having fun without me. And I hated it.

By the time I finished work I would leave the building in time to witness teenage girls, in 'sexy-leprechaun' outfits staggering around the streets, being propped up by each other or their male counterparts, older people swaying from one side of the street to the other, lost-looking tourists side-stepping vomit and the streets filthy with the detritus of gaudy festivity. It was...well.. it was all very depressing.

But, whatever  about the "boo-hoo, I had to work, poor me" stuff. And far be it from me to rain on anyone's parade (I'll leave that to the Irish weather) - people are free to celebrate however they wish. There is another reason entirely that I'm not a fan of this holiday.


You see, St. Patrick was... well, he was a lot of things... but most of them are made up. In a nutshell, Patrick is attributed with bringing Christianity to Ireland - every Irish person knows this  - but really he was most likely only one part of the crusade to rid Ireland of its snakes - sorry- I mean druids. We know now that there never were any snakes in Ireland - the snakes are symbolic of something else. To me, Pádraig is the symbol of how the Irish people began to be divorced from their deep connection to the earth and the cycle of the seasons.

I'm not a Pagan - but I love observing and celebrating the seasons. I'm also fascinated with how Christianity supplanted the earlier, Celtic, earth-centric faith of this country. Being a big fan of Irish folklore too, means that I am interested in the sídhe - or fairy-folk - and how they fit into the history and mythology of this country. To me they represent the land itself. The ancient rituals pertaining to keeping them happy are surely guidelines to showing respect for the land that nourishes and sustains us

By ridding Ireland of the guardians of this kind of faith, St. Patrick effectively tried to kill the fairies and that's just unforgivable in my book.

Yes, I have a flair for the dramatic.

But I still don't like Paddy's Day.

(Oh, and don't even get me started on the colour green  - which I do love - but which isn't even the official national colour!)

Anyway, all of my grinchiness aside, I now have two small children who are VERY excited about Paddy's Day and - for the first time in a million years I am NOT working on the day - so I've decided to reclaim it as best I can.

We'll take part in some of the festivities in our home town. We might venture into the city to hear stories about "mischievous fairies and lost kings" and we'll have some fun at home too.

We are reading: The Giant of Aran. It's a lovely book that features a giant and a leprechaun and a rainbow with a pot of gold at the end - but that isn't tacky in any way. Which is a little bit miraculous.


The girls are really enjoying it being read and re-read and re-read to them and they're hoping a little Leprechaun might even leave them some gold on Paddy's Day morning.


I may not like St. Patrick, but I do like an excuse for a party. This year, I'm embracing our national holiday by celebrating the Irish things that abide, despite that jumped-up Welsh fella.


Oh, and there'll definitely be green jelly and ice-cream on the menu. And maybe even a bit of Darby O' Gill for good measure...


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12 comments

  1. I bet being off for the first time will help - I worked St Patrick's Day for years (not as part of the festival, but because Funds don't close worldwide just because the Irish want a day off) I hated it. I hated the city centre, the litter, the day-time drunkenness. Then when the kids came along, and the creche was closed on March 17th, I had to start booking it as annual leave. And suddenly I saw the good side. We started to develop little rituals - like having a full Irish for breakfast in the morning, then going somewhere for the afternoon - Dun Laoghaire or Airfield, or once, the parade in Bray! And last year, we braved the city centre parade, and it was brilliant - a perfect day. So I wish you lots of loveliness for this year's March 17th :)

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    1. Oh that sounds even worse! At least I was at a party! I am definitely happy to be with my girls this year and to hopefully begin some of our own new traditions. Thanks for your lovely comment xx

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  2. I've been ranting about this for years but no one wants to listen :'( I couldn't have articulated it as good as you though. We don't celebrate it and go off as far away from celebrations as possible on the day. Maybe one day I'll come round.

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    1. Glad I'm not alone in my ranting! At least we get a day off to have family fun :)

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  3. Your girls! Your girls! Your! Girls! GORGEOUS!!!!!! I haven't been to a parade in years and it's been at least two since I took the boys. Crazy stuff hanging around in the rain and not able to see anything. Then every single shop is packed and no room at the inn for a mother and her 4 boys. They're dad usually marshalls at our town parade so is never around either. I think this year I might take them to the cinema!

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    1. AW, thank you! They're starting to really love the camera these days ;) It is crazy. If it's dry we might venture to the parade - but mostly because I haven't been to a parade in about 10 years and am curious to see how much they've evolved ;) Cinema is a great idea though... especially if it's raining!

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  4. For a second I thought either my mum or hubby wrote this because they would be with you all the way and agree. This year they have agreed to make an effort for Lillibug x

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    1. Ha! Glad to hear there are others in my camp to be honest!! But I agree about marking it in someway for the little ones. They don't need to be affected by our grinchiness ;)

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  5. Thank you for this post, as an outsider it is really interesting to me. I do want to mark the day in some way with my children and this post has given me real food for thought, thank you. The book looks lovely too I might have to check it out. Your girls are just gorgeous :)

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    1. Thanks so much! I think most people outside of Ireland think we're all just delighted with ourselves on March 17th but, as with most things, there's another side to the story entirely. I'd love to hear about how you mark it, you always have such an interesting approach to things.

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  6. Love St Patricks Day, just love it. Yes there are bits I dislike but it's the first holiday of the year, it's the beginning of spring and kids love it.
    We go to the village parade about three minutes away, full of fun and people we know. The kids meet their friends and there is a real family atmosphere.
    Oh and on top of it all it's my birthday, and I love my birthday. Can't wait, you've really got me in the mood now.
    Your two little ones look like they will really enjoy it, and maybe you might too.

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    1. I love my birthday too - so I'm not surprised AT ALL that you love Paddy's day, Tric! It sounds like you have a lovely day planned. My girls will demand a fun time and as long as they are happy, I'll be happy too :)

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