Sunday 19 May 2019

St Patrick's Day - when everyone's proud to be a stereotype

We may not do very many things particularly well in this country, but we've long had a tradition of excelling at absurdity and events don't come more absurd than St Patrick's Day, the national celebration that invariably turns into a cause of national embarrassment
We may not do very many things particularly well in this country, but we've long had a tradition of excelling at absurdity and events don't come more absurd than St Patrick's Day, the national celebration that invariably turns into a cause of national embarrassment
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

So, have you got your silly leprechaun hat? You know the ones I mean, don't pretend you don't. I'm talking about those hideous Mad Hatter mitres that are usually worn by some eejit sitting in front of you when you're at a match. You normally hate them, but not today. Because today you'll make an exception and proudly wear your hat, because what better way to block everyone else's view of the parade?

While we're at it, have you had your first drink of the day yet? Yeah, yeah, I know. You'd normally only be tempted to have an AM tipple on Christmas morning, but hey, it's our national saint's day. Anyway, can you come up with a more fitting way to commemorate the introduction of Christianity to this island than a lunchtime bender followed by a scrap in O'Connell Street?

We may not do very many things particularly well in this country, but we've long had a tradition of excelling at absurdity and events don't come much more absurd than St Patrick's Day, the national celebration that invariably turns into a cause of national embarrassment.

For a people as ridiculously thin skinned as the Irish, it's a source of ironic bemusement that today is the day when most of us seem determined to conform to the kind of Oirish stereotypes which, had they been printed in an English newspaper, would cause half of us to go all 'Charlie Hebdo' with rage and indignation.

In the dim and distant days of my youth in the 1980s, the best crack (as opposed to 'craic', which is an appalling and vile fake neologism) to be had on Paddy's Day was taking a trip into town to watch the parade.

That shouldn't be confused with any sense of national pride, of course.

No, that journey was only undertaken so we could look at bright-eyed, big-toothed teenage cheerleaders from Savannah, Georgia, succumbing to frost bite and dropping their batons as their fingers struggled to cope with hypothermia and a freezing wind blowing down the Liffey.

That might seem cruel, but then you have to remember that it was the '80s. There wasn't a whole lot to do.

Of course, tell that to the kids today and they'd laugh at you or, because of the day that's in it, they'd probably kick your head in.

St Patrick's Day has become our very own Rumspringa, that delightful Amish custom where the kids are allowed to go wild and sample the decadent delights of the outside world before deciding whether or not to return to the welcoming but oppressive bosom of their family.

The only difference here, of course, is that this Oirish Rumspringa is open to one and all and there's a good chance the parents are behaving every bit as badly, if not worse, than their own kids.'

It used to be seen as a holy day of obligation and that sense of duty continues, albeit in a rather different fashion.

How else can you explain the fact that every pub in Dublin will serve the vilest of all Irish foods, the dreaded coddle, today and today alone?

After all, if there was genuinely a public demand for a bowl of boiled sausages and the kind of bacon that looks like flesh from a corpse that has been fished out of the river, surely it would appear on the menu on other days?

No amount of foodie revisionism can alter the fact that this is one of the most hideous meals you will ever have the misfortune to put into your mouth.

But people will continue to order, if not necessarily eat, the dish as they swig their 10th pint of porter in their furious efforts to drown the shamrock - itself a pointless and useless weed which, rather like the coddle, isn't even edible.

But enough griping. 'Tis a time to be proud to be Irish and if you're a tourist, visiting our fair isle, remember that on this day, nobody is a stranger.

They're just someone who hasn't punched you yet.

Irish Independent

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