Clearly, that’s not true but I did miss St Patrick’s Day, which is a holiday I enjoy nearly more than Christmas.
Criticize if you like but as holidays go, I think St Patricks Day is pretty good. It’s one of my favourite holidays ranked just behind Thanksgiving and my birthday– no really, in Australia sometimes my birthday is a holiday (it often coincides with the Easter long weekend). Similar to Thanksgiving, it’s a holiday built around eating, drinking, spending time with friends. It’s about celebrating what’s great about being Irish (or American for Thanksgiving). There are no presents involved and really it’s just about getting together with friends- and it has a colour scheme/costume idea just to add an extra element!
Or at least that’s my interpretation.
I know that St Patricks day means different things to different people. Until recently, in Ireland, it was a religious holiday and pubs weren’t even allowed to open- seriously. American Irish or rather Irish Americans in New York, Chicago, and Boston were the ones who turned it into an occasion for a parade and wearing green and celebrating their Irishness and all things Irish in the US. As it turns out, there are Irish people and Irish pubs in nearly every corner of the world—I think there’s a Chinatown and at least one Irish pub in every city on earth. So the American version of St Patrick’s Day caught on pretty quickly. Unsurprisingly, Guinness saw a marketing opportunity for their uniquely Irish product and really promoted the party and pub aspect of St Patricks day, and once the marketing kids got involved- boom, it’s pretty much taken off from there!
As we all know, I’m an absolute sucker for marketing and St. Patrick’s Day is a product I’ve fully bought into. I have no doubt I’ll be one of those parents who decorates the house with gold coins and rainbows and who tells the kids to find the leprechauns (apparently that’s a thing now).
My first memories of St Patrick’s Day were from school, we had to wear green on March 17th. We also wore red or pink on February 14th so what can I say, I went to a school where being seasonally appropriate was important. It wasn’t a big deal growing up except that a few cities in the US would dye rivers green and they would do a quick news story on it. Between that and my green turtleneck that was it.
When I lived in London, I remember hitting the pubs and being surrounded by Irish expats out for a few pints. I think London was where I had my first Guinness- tasty but how did people keep drinking it?? Somewhere there is a picture of me in a Heineken hat – (it was the only green I had)- outside of a pub with a pint of Guinness! I remember being surprised by the sheer volume of people who were all celebrating and hanging out in the street that night. We didn’t have anything in common (I’m certainly not Irish, nor were the Italians I was with) but we all found ourselves in the same place.
Realistically, it was moving to Sydney that really cemented things for me and St P. Having two close Irish girl friends I got introduced to actual Irish people- not Americans with a vague connection to Ireland who listened to House of Pain and had a great great someone who had migrated across but actual, real live, real life Irish people. For the first time Ireland was more than leprechauns and U2 and Sinead O’Connor and a vague concept of bombings and ‘troubles’. Growing up in the 80s in the US, that was pretty much what the press coverage on Ireland could be condensed into.
After my first St Patrick’s Day with Irish friends, I was hooked. Not just on the holiday but on what an amazing culture and people it celebrates. Of course St Patrick’s Day oversimplifies 1000 years of history into a few key symbols that are easy to understand and celebrate- music, leprechaun, green, Guinness, shamrock, rainbows, pot of gold- most of which have nothing to do with the real Ireland – but I’m really pleased that I have friends and a fiancée whose culture is so rich, varied, and interesting. Considering the population in Ireland is about the same as the Sydney metropolitan region, it really has made quite a big mark on the world—possibly because most people of Irish descent aren’t actually in Ireland.
St Patrick’s Day for Irish expats is a day to celebrate “home” whatever that means to them- that’s the great thing about being an expat- you can pick and choose what from home you want to celebrate and what you want to sweep under the rug. Everyone’s family and everyone’s experience with “Home” is different. Much like Thanksgiving, It’s not how the holiday first started and everyone celebrates differently but it is an experience that everyone can share- Irish or not.
Except for me this year.
No sugar March meant I didn’t bake chocolate Guinness cupcakes this year, a downpour meant that we didn’t venture in for Sydney’s festivities in Hyde Park and a sprained ankle meant no going to the pub to soak up the atmosphere. In fact, The Runner and I had a quiet dinner and although we had spoken about going to get a can of Guinness to share at home, we didn’t. I don’t even think The Runner has worn his green t shirt in the past two weeks. A pretty poor effort from us really!
So I feel a bit deflated and defeated, not only am I limping around pathetically but I missed one of my favorite days of the year. On the bright side, it’s only 363 days until next year and less than a month until my favorite holiday of all- my birthday!