Due to my brother picking St Patrick’s Day to die on, for 14 years I have not really ‘celebrated’ our national day. In recent years, my husband has taken our younger daughters to the local parade in Bray which retains the charm of a local community event. Last year, I joined them and enjoyed it very much.

This year however, I felt that the children were old enough to brave the huge crowds in the city and that it was time for me to reclaim my St Patrick’s Day. So we decided to Luas it into town and check out the biggest and best Paddy’s Day Parade in the world.

We headed to Westmoreland Street where we claimed a spot in a 5 deep crowd. There we stood for over half an hour in a sea of huge leprechaun hats, luminous green wigs, and oversized shamrock sunglasses listening to a variety of languages and accents all around us – few of which were local. The international audience is wonderful and excitement and good humour was high. But once the parade started we realised that the children could really see almost nothing. Husband salvaged the day by spotting a shop which was open, and had a first floor window. A quick word with the shop owner and we had a bird’s eye view of the proceedings.

What a difference 14 years makes. Yesterday’s parade was a wonderful spectacle – full of colour and creativity and imagination. But it was Mardi Gras. It could have been Rio de Janeiro or Notting Hill. Other than the sea of lurid green in the crowd, I was left wondering what this parade had to do with being Irish or Ireland. As it finished, realisation dawned on me that we may have lost something precious. This was not my parade.

My parade had lots of big volume marching bands from the US, but it also had big corporate floats which were not just a fleet of newly washed vans. Does anyone else remember Abel Alarms who often had the best big float of the parade? Aer Lingus were usually represented as were ESB and other semi state companies of the decades past. There were steam engines and Irish dancers. And I think that our little Air Corps did a fly past too. My parade was all about Ireland and what we have to proud and grateful for.

The crowd yesterday were adorned in all kinds of greenery from hula skirts to Scottish tartan berets – I kid you not. There was not a sprig of wilting shamrock or tricolour rosette in sight. Where was my La Le Padraig?. I am all for progress and change and I love the colour and creativity that the new parade has in abundance. But I think we may have thrown out the baby with the bathwater. Yesterday was Mardi Paddy. But I am Irish and although it was great fun, it was not my parade.

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Writing and Talking.... on the radio, on the telly and in the papers.

7 thoughts on “MARDI PADDY?”

  1. Fascinating read to hear about St. Patrick's Day and the parade from the Irish viewpoint. Sorry about that mardi Paddy thing. i've heard people say that Mardi Gras is horrible now. Just a garish display of everything that's unholy. Hope your parade never turns to that.

  2. Very interesting viewpoint, Barbara.
    I have been in a few times in recent years and agree it's a fabulous spectacle but strangely un-Irish.
    I know we need to move away from the 'dancing at the crossroads' image but somewhere in-between would be nice.
    I think the parade you were seeking has moved out to the suburbs, plenty of tractors and Irish dancers in my local parade.

  3. Hi Karen and Brigid and thanks for the comments. Yes Karen, there was something very garish about it all and as Brigid says, somewhere inbetween the old and the Mardi Gras would be probably best. But for me – there was nothing Irish about it all. And yep Brigid – think I might stick with Bray next year!!!

  4. I understand your feelings actually, St Patrick's Day has become a sort of global festival and as far as I can see has little to do with Ireland in a sense. For the past few years I've seen card shops with big racks of ST Patrick's day cards, pubs advertising happy hours etc and offers on guinness. This in the North East of England, which has a small/non-existent Irish community, and it's just a flimsy excuse for a drink!
    You should start a campaign to keep it Irish not a Mardi Gras-style drink fest!

  5. I listened via computer to the parade in Dungarvan on WLR FM. It sounded more sophisticated than the last one we attended and taped for the children to watch each St. Patrick’s Day. But it was still local.

    We went out to eat last night as a treat for the day that was in it. A rather large loud woman barged into our conversation asking if the corned beef and cabbage(yuck) was good. With a look to wilt an ogre I informed her “I wouldn't know.” She huffed off to her table. Muttering loudly, “Some people don't know how to celebrate St. Patrick's Day! She's not even wearing green” Little side note, I was wearing shamrock.

    I agree with Brigid, better to stay in Bray. Leave the spectacle to those, I wannbe Irish albiet just for the day. After all it is their parade.

  6. Oh rebecca – you have hit the nail on the head. And I deliberately did not write about the sense of forboding I experienced as we wandered around the city in the 'aftermath'. The pubs were spilling punters out onto paths, all clutching pints or cans. And the number of scantily clad, very young 'cailins' in green mini skirts and stilettoes falling about drunk was very depressing.

    And this is not an Irish phenonemon (sp) its global.. but worrying. Makes u want to run to the countryside and sit in a pub full of smoky turf laden air, sipping a drink and listening to a really good session – with plenty of craic. This St Patricks Festival is not Irish. No – not in the least

  7. I loved this post.I particularly agree with the sentiments expressed in your last three paragraphs. I would love to see this post published: even at the very least, as a letter to the editor of the Irish Times. Once again, Barbara you have expressed eloquently what I can only feel! x.

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