‘Tis Paddy’s Day, again, or ‘Lá Fhéile Pádraig’. Even Google loves it. Worldwide, more Guinness is drunk today than on any other day of the year, allegedly; the St James’ Gate brewery will no doubt celebrate anew and the Chicago River is dyed green. Yet, it was not always so. 1903 saw the first national holiday, over 150 years after the Boston Irish organised the first parade in 1737. The Government only backed it in 1995 to ‘”project, internationally, an accurate image of Ireland as a creative, professional and sophisticated country with wide appeal, as we approach the new Millennium.” I’ll remember that next time I get lost in Cork and ask for directions.
Today is a holy day of obligation for Irish Catholics and in times past, the faithful attended Church, then walked with their families in the garden, instead of sloshing down quarts of the black velvet and being badly behaved.
Patrick was originally taken to Ireland as a teenage slave. Having escaped, he studied for the priesthood in Gaul, returning, somewhat irrationally, as a bishop to convert the heathen Celts, diplomatically focusing on royalty as well as the common people and his iconic shamrock which he used to explain the Trinity remains an enduring myth. He died, allegedly, on 17th March 461CE in Downpatrick. I wonder how he might have responded to what in 2007 Fr Vincent Twomey is quoted as remarking in ‘The Word’ that the anniversary of his death became an excuse for ‘mindless, alcohol-fuelled revelry’. Perhaps he was thinking of the shortest Parade in the world, in Dripsey, Cork, a hundred yards between the village’s two pubs. Just time to pour the next one..only a real Irish barmaid can draw a proper shamrock on the head…