Some facts about St Patrick’s Day in Ireland that American readers might not know:
– St Patrick’s Day may be called Paddy’s Day, but never, ever Patty’s Day. Ever.
– St Patrick’s Day is the national holiday, so it’s a day off school and work for everyone. But it’s also a holy day, because of the Saint bit, so you have to go to Mass. Before Mass you get a little bunch of shamrock, preferably with a clod of earth still attached, and you affix it to your lapel, like a very agricultural corsage. (I don’t know where you get it. From your mother, usually. She gets it from her dealer, over a cup of extra-milky tea and some contraband custard creams. I suppose.)
– If you don’t go to Mass, you miss your chance to sing the hymn of the day, Hail Glorious Saint Patrick, which is wheeled out just once a year, and which you’ve been practising in school all week.
– On Saint Patrick’s Day you have a special dispensation from on high to break Lent. This means that if you’ve given up sweets for the 40 days prior to Easter – within which March 17 always falls – you are allowed to buy a large bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and eat it while watching the parade. If you’ve given up the holy trinity of sweets, crisps, and chocolate, you can have a pack of Tayto as well. And maybe a bag of Milky Moos, but only if you go to the cinema.
– Depending on the weather, you may choose to go home and watch the parade on telly. This is allowed. If you decide to brave the rain/hail/sleet anyway, you will be rewarded with the sight of all the poor Texan majorettes in their short skirts and flesh-coloured tights failing to mask the goosebumps wondering why they came. But, to be honest, you can see that on telly too, so I’m not sure what the point is, except to feel like you earned your Dairy Milk. If your fingers aren’t too numb to break off the squares.
– There are no leprechauns. If there are leprechauns on St Patrick’s Day, they are deeply, deeply ironic ones. The Irish are a cynical, sardonic, hard-bitten race, and we know that the only thing at the end of the rainbow is rain, and banks lining their pockets with tax-payers’ money.
Some facts about St Patrick’s Day in America that Irish people might be interested to hear:
– Americans think we eat corned beef and cabbage all the time. I’ve explained numerous times this week that it’s meant to be bacon and cabbage, if we ate it at all, which most of us don’t. Corned beef is the Irish-American substitute because you can’t get the right sort of bacon here.
– If you don’t wear some item of green clothing on the 17th of March, people are allowed to pinch you.
– Americans have shamrocks and four-leafed clovers inextricably mixed up. Because four-leafed clovers are lucky, and shamrocks are Irish, and luck and Irish go together, so… that makes perfect sense.
– On the 16th of March children all over the USA are hard at work making leprechaun traps. The next morning they come downstairs, or go to school, to find that a mischeivous sprite has wreaked a little havoc with the toys or in the kitchen, maybe left a few green footprints, and possibly a peace offering of some green cookies or cupcakes.
I don’t know why Americans find it necessary to give their children imaginary nighttime visitors so often: I’ve already carped about Santa Claus, and the tooth fairy will soon be breathing down our necks, but I didn’t realise till last year that the Easter Bunny was also a real, live, fictional character whose cover I wasn’t meant to blow while parents sowed the lawn with pastel plastic eggs – and now this. I’m a bit appalled. I may be That Parent if this sort of thing is perpetrated next year. (Monkey missed school today due to continuing pinkness of eye.) And I’m a big old curmudgeon, I know.
Happy Day of Greenness. I dressed the children in yellow and pink, and we had red lentil coconut curry for dinner.