To tell a tale, and tell a tale well…
A friend of mine often says that it’s ok to lie… if it improves a story. In fact, it’s not even considered lying: it’s ‘embellishment’ and it’s a compliment to the listener.
This same friend of mine tells the tale of being on a backpacking trip through Ireland, where he woke up one night with a snake curled peacefully into his boot. What’s more, the snake was snoring.
What made me think that this raconteur was perhaps being liberal with the truth? That perhaps he had given a quick kiss to the Blarney Stone on his trip through the Emerald Isle?
Because me Mammy always told me that there are no snakes in Ireland!
And just how does me Mam say this particular Irish quirk came about? Naturally, a holy man banished them with a point of his saintly finger towards the sea.
And if that weren’t true, then why do we celebrate a day in his name every year? When the rivers flow green, shamrocks spring up in face paint everywhere, and Irish stout sales go through the roof, it can only be St. Patrick’s Day.
An Irish Emblem
The Irish diaspora of the 18th and 19th centuries led to a veritable population explosion of Irishmen and (women) around the world. And with them came their jigs, Celtic traditions, shamrocks, crosses, and - of course - the tale of St. Patrick himself.
This famed giant of Irish culture was not, in actual fact, Irish. Born in Wales, he was kidnapped and taken to Ireland to work as a slave, shepherding livestock. He escaped, walking 200 miles to hide aboard a ship and return to his family. Along the way he found and dedicated himself to his faith, leading to his priestly training, missionary work, and eventual veneration by the Catholics.
Mass emigration of the Irish meant that cultural melting pots and mosaics around the globe have integrated and (eventually) celebrated Irish culture, with the green fever culminating yearly on March 17th, the anniversary of St. Patrick’s death.
As a matter of fact, thanks to the 85 million Irish descendants around the world, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in more countries than any other national festival!
A green global phenomenon
You’re probably aware of how your local pub commemorates, but have you ever wondered about other cities and countries?
Have you ever seen a river turn green? In Chicago you will, as every year about 50 pounds of green dye is poured into the water running through the city, giving everything a festive tint.
St. Patrick's Day in Chicago
In New Orleans you run the risk of catching a cabbage to the face, as an annual cabbage food fight takes over the city streets!
Go further south to the Caribbean, and in Montserrat you’ll find a 10-day-long celebration complete with calypso concerts.
In the Land of the Rising Sun, residents of Ise have created a unique hybrid of Shinto tradition and Irish culture.
And what about Ireland itself? Does March 17th find Ireland even greener than usual, with more céilís, louder music and prouder postures? In a word: yes! Though you may find the affair slightly less focussed on pub culture than in other corners, with a huge emphasis on live sports.
In Dublin, for example, hurling (camogie for the ladies), and gaelic football are watched by huge crowds. Followed, naturally, by a parade and a road race (why not?)
Out west in Galway, you’re treated to a huge parade followed by live concerts the entire day of March 17th, while in Belfast a classic party atmosphere fills the air.
And what about you, in this wild yet subdued year?
In your corner of the UK, how will you both shelter in place, and partake in a social holiday? If you’re looking to spice up a socially-distanced celebration, you could do worse than the Beer Rare-Box, with tasters of craft beers, lagers, and IPAs, as well as scrumptious treats to help whet your appetite. As a special St. Patty’s Day treat, the box also gifts you a bottle opener, a coaster, and a tumbler.
Wherever you are, however you celebrate, remember that when you tell the tale years from now, it’s never a bad idea to sprinkle a few artful embellishments and tantalizing twists - after all, if it improves your story, you won’t even be lying!