A Very Paddy Day

*Blows off dust. Taps blog. Hello? Testing. Is this thing on? Hello?*

So we bought the house in the end. Then I became a grandad. Anyway, moving on. 

Today it’s Saint Patrick’s Day. I’m sure all you wee ones, you millennials and generation ZX or whatever, you think it’s just back-to-back entertainment, don’t you? Drinking your weirdly coloured beer. Wearing your big hats. Waving at Michael Flatley on his popemobile as red-haired maidens troop past, spraying the crowd with milk. Well let me tell you right now, it wasn’t always like that… 

You see, when I was a wee fella, back around the dawn of time, Saint Patrick’s Day wasn’t a thing you celebrated, but endured. It was a day off, sure. But it was also a holy day. Which meant you were going to mass, regardless of what your thoughts on the matter might be. And if you were lucky you’d have some shamrock pinned to you first. And maybe – oh the joy – a green rosette or plastic flag-type thing. 

Mass, of course, would be an immensely drab affair. It was tragic how a priest could make damnation, sin, evil and eternal torment sound so boring, when Iron Maiden took the very same subject material and made it thrilling, if a little long, but Father Priestfellow always seemed to manage it.

After mass, there might be a parade on the TV, transmitted from one of our many (five) cities, but it was always a miserable rainy affair with tractors pulling trailers containing hay and trad musicians and maybe, if you were lucky, a gaelic footballer or two. And that would be it. 

Except for one thing. A truly magical thing. You see, Paddy’s Day usually occurred during Lent. That’s when Catholics give up nice things. Like cigarettes or beer. Or chocolate. I think pancakes were also involved in some way. And ash? I don’t fucking remember, it’s been a while since I was a Catholic. Anyway, as kids, you would normally give up sweets, and Paddy’s Day was a cheat day. Lent was turned off. So the gorging on sweets could commence. Or on cigarettes, if that was what you’d given up. Or sex. Just like the great man himself would have wanted. 

It was only when I moved to Dublin in 1989, to study, that I was exposed to a Paddy’s Day that could be described as joyful. It shocked me, to be honest. Celebrating a religious day? Having fun? Those bloody Americans, always ruining our misery by taking it and sending it back to us all bright and joyful.

It’s a weird thing to do, though, isn’t it — celebrating the person who helped usher in two millenia of crushing guilt and all but eradicate Ireland’s traditional religion and rituals. On the plus side, the beardy fella did give us green beer, plastic hats and liver disease, and I think we can all agree that was probably a win.

So happy Paddy’s Day. I guess.

/ Paddy

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