Tag Archives: leprechaun

St. Patrick’s Day Perspectives

2970_165631165190_7269979_n

Good morning and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I was born and raised in Watford (which has its own special set of ramifications that we can come back to another time), but I also have a lot of Irish heritage.  I didn’t get some of the Irish genes that I would have liked -the gorgeous red hair and pale skin went to my little sister in this generation – but a lot of aspects of my personality are more Irish than Watfordian, such as my deep-rooted conviction that feeding people will solve everything.

I also have several Irish friends, and it is their perspective of this saint’s day that I would like to tell you about this morning.  These friends have been brought up in Northern Ireland (or “Norn Iron”, if you like), but moved over to England for university.  One of them stayed over here for a while and has only recently moved back to Belfast for a fantastic job, and another has just moved to Italy for a few months.  They are passionate, talented and interesting people who are definitely going places, but who are also (quite rightly) proud of where they’ve come from.

Interestingly, the general consensus of their favourite St. Patrick’s Days has been their first one away from Ireland.  I reckon the main reason for this is probably that they were at university with a whole new group of friends, and there is a novelty about today that we English like to maximise.  (For instance, walk into any Asda in the country and look at the St. Patrick’s Day costumes they’ve got in store.  Hey wow, as my friend Carly would say.)  One of my friends said that she was overwhelmed by how many people turned up to her first Paddy’s Day party in England: “They also didn’t just turn up, everyone dressed up – the face paint was everywhere!  It was brilliant craic!”  I was at that party and it’s true, the face paint really took over the evening, and we had a great time.

Another friend of mine decided to use what he describes as the “It’s St. Patrick’s Day and I’m Irish, so bend to my will” card by persuading the staff at one of our uni bars to change the television channel: “I got…them to put the schools’ rugby final (a Northern Irish tradition, it’s quite a big deal) on the big screens. I then got my first few drinks in of the day while I watched my old school get thoroughly trounced. I washed down the disappointment and disgust with a few more beers. Then travelled to the late Rutherford bar [another drinking hole on campus] for a brunch of “traditional Irish stew”.  (It was nothing of the sort. I mean, it was quite nice but nothing like mammy used to make…)”

When I asked my friends about the differences between celebrating St. Patrick’s Day over here and in Ireland, I got a very interesting set of responses: the biggest differences actually seem to be between Northern Ireland and the Republic, because of the Catholic/Protestant divide in Northern Ireland: “It isn’t an official bank holiday here like it is down South.  Nevertheless, quite a few schools and businesses take the day off work.”  I was also told that “in Ireland pretty much everything shuts down; transport, banks, schools etc. (Not the pubs. Obviously.) …I hear the Belfast and Dublin parties are pretty great (albeit the ones in Belfast can get a little hairy – St. Patrick’s Day is most definitely a Catholic holiday”.  In terms of how the English celebrate this day, one of my friends made a very canny observation: “I think for England it’s a great day to drink like the Irish and get the craic going, leaving that old stiff upper lip behind for a day!”  And who can argue with that?

Similarly, I got a very good explanation for why this day seems to be more popular than other UK patron saints’ days: “St Patrick’s Day is a whole lot of fun. Everyone around the world is familiar with the stereotype of what it is to be Irish (I’ve not been to a country yet where someone hasn’t piped up with the old “oh, you’re Irish, do you want a Guinness/potato/leprechaun?”) and more importantly, people like what that stereotype entails: being jolly, cracking jokes and getting drunk with your friends.” 

I completely agree with my friends that today’s socially acceptable jollity is something that we English find appealing because it’s the perfect meeting point between our binge-drinking culture and our traditional self-control, and who can resist shunning their own stereotype for the day in order to adopt someone else’s (which is also a lot more fun)?

So today is a good time for celebration and fun, but what would my Irish friends like to change about this holiday?  One of my friends has an excellent and touching St. Patrick’s Day wish: “I wish that all Protestant, Unionist and Loyalist communities throughout Northern Ireland who don’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day due to it being associated with the Republic of Ireland and the Nationalist communities would come out and celebrate.  It is a day that can unite us, whether you are Irish, Northern Irish, Catholic, Protestant or from a minority.”

Another friend of mine who has a slightly different set of priorities has made this impassioned plea: “If I could change one thing about the day it’d probably be this: hot girls with atrociously fake Irish accents get more free pints than genuine Irish guys desperate for another pint. There is something very wrong about this and I think someone really ought to do something.”

Have a brilliant St. Patrick’s Day everyone, and remember to drink your novelty green beer responsibly.

Where’s Seamus?

Image

Hello, lovely reader.  Are you enjoying your Tuesday so far?

Sometimes the universe is very quirky.  There are things that we know are not logically possible, but sort of believe in anyway.  Derren Brown has shown us how seemingly impossible feats can be put down to illusion and trickery (although less honest Channel 4 stars like Troy and Dynamo would have us thinking otherwise).  As children we discover the fallacy of Father Christmas, and as students we realise the horrors of budgeting.  Life is full of unwelcome truths.

If we are honest with ourselves, we sort of knew all along.  The Father Christmas thing; the WHOLE world in ONE night?  Even taking the time zone thing into consideration?  No way.  We don’t always like to be shaken out of our delusions, but once we’re out we’re definitely out.

I think that everybody has their own personal mythology to contend with, too: some people don’t step on cracks in the pavement, and some people have to turn light switches on and off a certain numbers of times.  I personally think that specific items of clothing affect my day: when I’m wearing a certain pair of shoes I always seem to be grumpier than usual; when I wear my green top I always get more drunk than I mean to.  (When I tried to explain this little oddity to my house mate she said “I’ve got some dresses that make me slutty.”  I’m not sure she quite got what I was talking about.)  We know deep down that these little idiosyncrasies don’t really mean anything, but as grown-ups we scramble to find a shred of a belief system that can comfort us in the absence of childhood fantasies.

Is that necessarily a bad thing?  Are we allowed to keep our bizarre beliefs because we can’t cling on to the old ones (without looking weird to other people)?  Is it better to have funny little habits than live completely in the real world?  I wouldn’t know, because I secretly think that leprechauns are probably real.  But if you are the kind of person who lives completely in the real world, do you think it’s better your way, or do you wish you could still believe in unicorns?  (Seriously.  It’s not that big of an evolutionary jump from horses.)

I think that it’s ok to have your own slightly odd belief system, as long as it’s not hurting anyone else or in complete defiance of fact.  If I said that I didn’t believe in dinosaurs, that would be stupid, and science would bitch slap me.  If I said that I didn’t believe in gay marriage, that would be stupid and wrong and my friends would bitch slap me.  (American politicians seem to get away with both of those quite a lot, by the way.  Someone over there be a dear and do some bitch slapping for the rest of us.)

I’m obviously not completely serious about the leprechauns and unicorns, but there is a part of me that thinks “well, why not?”  It may be wishful thinking, or it could be that the world is a big place and there must be thousands of undiscovered things in it, but who’s to say that bizarre things like that don’t actually exist?

OK, I know I’m being a bit silly.  But as an adult it’s my right to believe in whatever I want to, and as a fairly childish adult I’m going to choose mythological creatures.  If there is such a thing as leprechauns, I absolutely want to be friends with one.  His name will be Seamus, he will be an excellent Irish dancer and he will smoke a pipe.