Archives for posts with tag: St Patrick’s Day

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Wishing you all a happy St Patrick’s Day, wherever you are.

We Irish don’t look at St Patrick’s Day in quite the same way as other countries. While St. Patricks Day is a welcome break and a chance to prepare for spring, we tend to look at the kitch and global celebration of Irishness with mild embarrassment, as if someone invited us to a party in our honour, but sent it to the wrong people, and we went along with it anyway, rather than spoil it for them.

What is Irishness anyway? Perhaps, when Ireland was a mono-cultural society, defined along rigid sectarian lines, there might have been a case to be made – commemorating a history of oppression and struggle against sometimes massive odds. Nowadays this story holds none of the same resonance.

Ireland today is a relatively modern country and home to a broad range people from all over the world. Our religious identity is disappearing. We are quite well integrated into the wider European community and thus more likely to share most of the values and aspirations of our continental neighbours. Our health and education systems are chaotic and under-funded, but functional. Our political leaders are salesmen. Sport is a national obsession, as is the price of property. A bracing combination of engaging scenery and bad weather keeps us grounded. All thing considered, we don’t particularly stand out, and that’s ok with us.

But, to consider the pomp around St Patrick’s Day, you would think we are wildly special, different by a long shot from all other people on the planet.

Alcohol consumption might be a factor, but we’re certainly not the only nation with a love of drinking. In fact, if our empty pubs and middle-age health obsessions are anything to go by, drinking is rapidly on the wane here.

Arts, music, literature and poetry, yes, perhaps; but it seems this too is overblown. Our artistic heritage is often more complicated, in any case, than it appears at first glance – owing a lot, in many cases, to other nationalities, conveniently forgotten in our self-made myths.

Maybe it’s the love of the craic, the raconteur, the devil may care attitude, the life and soul of the party, or whatever you are having yourself, but it seems that these are more universal values than we care to accept.

It’s all very hazy. We’ve moved from a patriotic love of Ireland and its dominant religion to this nebulous concept of “Irishness”, and we don’t really know any more what it means.

Here’s what I think it should mean. Rather than focusing on one small culturally ambiguous island in the Atlantic, St. Patrick’s Day should be all about displacement. It should be a global celebration of emigration, immigration and movement away from home, both forced and unforced. In a world where mobility is expected and often mandated, it’s good to have a day when we can think about where we came from, and the journeys we have made to get to where we are. This is true, both for us as individuals and our wider historic backgrounds. The Irish, a nation with form in this area, are just as good ambassadors as anyone else.

So there it is: if you live somewhere that is far away from the homeland of your childhood, or even if you feel a connection to somewhere other than your current home, whether that be China, Gabon, Vietnam or Co. Offaly, then happy St. Patrick’s Day. This day is for you.

Instead of visiting the St. Patrick’s Day parades, we did the annual Ballycotton to Ballinrostig cliff walk. It’s the only occasion in the year when the coast is opened up to the public. In clement weather it’s one of the country’s most beautiful hikes, travelling over fields, cliffs and rolling hills with the sea to your left all the while. The walk takes in the beaches of Ballycroneen, Ballybrannigan and Inch. This 19km walk is one to be savoured every step of the way.

The conditions today were perfect. Plenty of sunshine, no winds and crystal clear visibility in all directions. As you can see from some of the shots below, the real winner were the skies: they were incredibly varied and detailed: a photographer’s dream.

The walk from Inch Beach to Ballinrostig is the most challenging part of the journey for the weary traveller. The soup and pint at the end make it all worthwhile.

I took a brief time-lapse movie at the end of the walk. This video details the slowly rolling clouds from Inch Beach. I hope you like it.

I love playing around with Google Trends. You can see when particular search terms:”recession”, say, or “bailout”, hit the headlines and world consciousness and how they have fared since then. Here’s a fascinating one, though. I typed “Irish” into Google Trends and I got this profile.

No huge surprise here. Each year, there is a big spike around March 17th for some reason. The bottom graph tells the story of the Irish financial meltdown from 2008 onwards. Curiously, the St. Patrick’s spikes seem to be declining in magnitude each year. Something to worry about, perhaps?

Then I typed in the keyword “Ireland“.

A similar pattern can be seen on the bottom graph, but what is happening in the top graph? St. Patrick’s Day is almost invisible amidst the noise and yet, each year around Christmas, the frequency of “Ireland” as a search term takes a precipitous dip.  I wonder what that is all about?

Incidentally, I can’t quite figure out what the spike in late 2007 was either. Both “Irish” and “Ireland” show a similar increase, and Google isn’t helping me to locate it.

Hey!

During the St Patrick’s Day Parade in Cork yesterday the festive atmosphere was broken momentarily by the usual procession of dour, po faced holy-Joes and Josephines threatening us all with damnation and a bit of perdition on the side if we didn’t get back to saying our ten Hail Marys.

My six year old daughter, annoyed by the break in ceremonies, shouts up at me within earshot of everyone around us..

“Hey, this isn’t a parade for God, it’s for St Patrick”..

Ah, bless.

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