I grew up in County Down in Northern Ireland, where the patron saint of Ireland is said to have lived and died.
When I was a child, every year we would go to a place called Saul near Downpatrick. Saint Patrick is said to have died there in 461. So every Saint Patrick’s Day, come hail, rain or snow, we would go to Saul and climb the mountain, then go to Saint Patrick’s grave.
We got the day off school, and we would go to Mass and wear a bunch of shamrocks in our lapels. We would sing a special hymn: “Hail glorious Saint Patrick” and feel very Irish.
When I grew up, the pub was the place to be on Saint Patrick’s Night, although no self-respecting Irish person drinks green Guinness. That’s for the tourists.
There would be live music, and everybody would sing along to ballads and come-all-ye’s. And the craic was ninety. (ie: we all had a great time.)
They say God created alcohol so the Irish would never rule the world, and if you go into Irish pubs on Saint Patrick’s Day, you’ll understand where that saying came from.
I’ve lived in Australia for just over two years now, and on March 17 last year, and the year before, I went to the Port Macquarie Irish Association Saint Patrick’s Day breakfast, each time at a local pub.
There was the traditional Irish fry – known colloquially as a ‘heart attack on a plate’. Bacon, sausage, fried egg, black pudding, fried potatoes, fried bread, and with mushrooms and tomatoes to take the bad look off it.
Then there were speeches, but if they lasted too long, people talked over them. Finally, there was a bit of Irish music, and the ex-pats got misty-eyed about being so far from home.
But when we left the pub and went outside into the beautiful sunshine and looked at the blue sky, we remembered one of the many wonderful things about Australia.
Everybody’s Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day, so raise a glass on March 17 and may your troubles be less, and your blessings be more, and nothing but happiness come through your door.