It’s been a long time since I experienced the St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin. I went as a child, like everyone else. I remember the long hours of boredom watching floats go by on a bustling St Stephen’s Green, and the crowds of people decked out in green.
As I grew older, the thought of going into the city for the celebrations didn’t even cross my mind. That was a time for tourists, children, even young families, but not me.
St Patrick’s Day has become a bittersweet occasion for many people living in Ireland. It’s a day of national pride that has morphed into something of a parody of all things Irish; most adults fall into a foggy cliché of alcohol and song, reemerging the next day to grumble about hordes of leprechaun hats and shamrock-laden apparel that invade the nation on an annual basis.
But as the old saying goes, the grass is always greener on the other side. Indeed, this has metaphorical – and literal! – significance for the millions of people around the world who count themselves among the Irish diaspora. For us, the pull of the Emerald Isle has more force; the thought of the land has more resonance.
For many first-generation emigrants scattered across the globe, the celebration means more than it ever did when we lived in Ireland, and that boils down to one thing: identity.
It’s all very well to be ambivalent about the day as a local on O’Connell Street, but when you’re gazing at the Empire State Building, the Golden Gate Bridge, or even the mountains of Vancouver’s north shore, it’s an occasion that deserves to be honored and celebrated with glorious abandon. Patriotism is a fire that burns bright for emigrants in particular, no matter where we come from.
On the likes of St Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, Columbus Day, Bastille Day, Independence Day, Canada Day and many other milestones, emigrants around the world celebrate their heritage so passionately because it’s a way to establish and secure that precious identity, to say to the people with whom we share a home that “we matter”.
These days are among the most special of the year. They are a reminder of an old way of life and a celebration of a new one. On this day, it’s the turn of the Irish. And now, the parade matters.
From all of us at BuildDirect, enjoy the day.
Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona daoibh!