Saturday, March 20, 2010

St. Patrick's Day Celebrations - Past and Present

I know it's a few days after St. Patrick's Day and I don't really have a lot to write about it as I posted last year also on the National Holiday - suffice to say that this year I went to two parades - one in Cappoquin, which is fairly new to parades, and Dungarvan which has been running forever and is very similar year after year. Cappoquin has only been running parades for the past year or two so it is still in its infancy and there's great credit due to the organisers for such great enthusiasm.

The parade was on at 12.30pm and teen daughter was in the Lismore Foróige Club group - that's the National Youth Development Organisation, which runs Youth Clubs at local level and provides training and leadership skills to young people and the club leaders. So they were all kitted out with logo-ed T-shirts and marched through Cappoquin. I took some photos and videoclips and hope they give a sense of the day. As Cappoquin is twinned with a French town, Chanat-la-Mouteyre, they had a French element in the parade and these "French" folk gave out free French Onion Soup and yummy cheese and baguettes to all comers - a lovely gesture that beat the free cuppa tea in Dungarvan!

You may wonder where's the spirit of St. Patrick? As most of you who know the way these parades go, they are a celebration of things local and Irish, a showcase for all kinds of local talent - bands, Irish dancers, community groups and clubs, as well as local sponsors of floats - so it can be quite a hotchpotch of displays and groups on the march.

The best float (which was in both parades) was the Tiger Woods PGA Tour - you can see the photo of the car crash on the flatbed truck here - it was very funny and was done by a group from Melleray who always excel at creativity when it comes to floats and fancy dress. The PGA in this instance bears no reference to golf in the acronym if you can read what's on the photo!

There were some lovely set dancers from Cappoquin and I have a video clip which I will add here, as well as a clip of the parade.

There are usually a selection of local dignitaries on stage - which is often a mobile stage in the town square (in the past it was often a trailer or the back of a lorry but these days they tend to be purpose-built mobile units, albeit on the back of a lorry!) In Cappoquin the County Mayor was at the parade, as she is from there, and this year the County Councillors made a great show of not going to New York as they had done in more boom times, given that these trips were generally roundly condemned as worthless junkets by the taxpayers and electorate of the county.

Nationally there are huge parades in the main cities, with Festivals lasting up to a week in Dublin, where there are spectacular Skyfest fireworks displays as well as the trad parade. I used to love the Dublin parade when the kids were small and we went whenever we were in Dublin on the day.

Of course Paddy's Day is a much bigger event for expat Irish and when we lived abroad we celebrated with great gusto, with Embassy bashes and black-tie balls in Dar-es-Salaam, while Concern seemed the natural organisation to lead the partying in any other workplace, like Iringa in Tanzania and Vientiane in Laos. In our early days in Bangladesh Concern always hosted the official Paddy's Day party while the British High Commission put on a formal evening around the actual day to mark the occasion as we had no Embassy in Dhaka and were under the protection of the High Commissioner (for those who don't know, the High Commissioner is like the Ambassador but only in the Commonwealth Countries - so that included Bangladesh and Tanzania.

Of course the Irish do know how to party and my most memorable Paddy's Day has to be the one we hosted in our home in Vientiane for everyone or so it seemed - we had a wonderful garden for parties and it was swelteringly hot and humid, we had a band and green beer, and lots of Irish Dancing which became increasingly rowdy and most un-Riverdance-like as the night wore on. At another Lao Paddy's Day party I remember coming home in a Mini with 10 people including a number of children standing up with their heads out the sunroof! Not something to contemplate in this day and age, but that was another time and place.

I hope you all had a great day wherever you were celebrating - it seems like a lot of blogposts have been written about the day so this reflection is just a tad late. I seem to be running to stand still these days!


Stephanie V said...

The video is great...I really caught the feel of the parade.
We don't have a St Patrick's Day parade here but so many of us celebrated in our own ways - big and small.

Peggy said...

Hi Catherine, I did not know about being a finalist until I read your comment on my blog!Thanks for the nomination and the best of luck.
I prefer the parades in the smaller towns as everyone gets involved either in the planning,organizing or taking part or all three!

talesfromagarden said...

Hi Catherine,
Lovely videos, you really captured the days festivites! The tiger woods float was excellent,a lot of work and imagination went into that one!
Peggy did great getting into the final six!You had your moment of fame too well done!

Ann said...

Thank you for a little glimpse of the parade. I really enjoyed your clips. Made me misty eyed and a little homesick. Still I will be home soon. Counting the weeks now!