What I remember about St. Patrick's Day growing up in Ireland

by Éamon Ó'Gaoithín
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What I remember about St. Patrick's Day growing up in Ireland

 The funny thing is that St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland is more like St. Patrick’s Day in the USA than ever  before.

Growing up in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, I remember March 17th as a day off school. However the one TV station we had available in the 70’s only showed TV programmes in Irish (Gaeilge). We had enough of that in school; we didn’t need more of that at home and especially not ALL DAY LONG. No, my fondness for the cupla focail (“the few words") came later in life.

St. Patrick's Day was also a Holy Day of obligation; you had to go to Mass in the morning. There might be a bit of a parade of the FCA down to the church and they’d raise a banner and sign a rousing version of Faith of our Fathers.

Before you went out however you had to have a sprig of Shamrock in your lapel or in my case pinned to your geansai (jumper or sweater). That was the sign of the true believer and of the true Patriot. The links between Church and State being much stronger then than they are now.

Even the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, wears a Sprig of Shamrock on St. Patrick’s Day now.

The idea of parades like what you’d see in New York or Boston didn’t exist. My first time down 5th Ave in the Big Apple I could not believe that a parade would start at noon and go on until 4:30pm continuously - ours in Clonmel lasted 15 minutes. In fact it was the one time of year I remember the Banna Cluain Meala marching the streets followed by the FCA from the local army barracks.

They were the nearest thing we had to a marching high school or college band...and no bloody high stepping leprechaun guy throwing shapes either. Our fella would have been doing that to keep warm in the rain!

Now that has changed and all for the better. St. Patrick’s day is now 4 days long and a big international festival. The brave St. Patrick would be proud of the day that’s in it.

Don’t forget to wear your shamrock scarves and a cap and some shamrock jewelry on the day or at one of the parades held around the US maybe even on the Saturday before March 17th. Use code GREENWITHENVY to receive a discount on green items found on this page. 

What’s your favorite memory of Patrick’s Day past?

How did you celebrate?

Were you pinched?

Please leave a comment on my blog below!

by Éamon Ó'Gaoithín


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