The Wailing Wall: St Patrick’s Day – An Oasis In The Desert Of Lent

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johnnie wall 1Johnnie Wall is looking forward to St Patrick’s Day, the bastion of relief in the middle of Lent…

St Patrick’s Day.

A day of celebration, an oasis in the desert that is Lent, the one day when it is officially OK to let loose on that repressed desire and longing, having pledged to remain off chocolate for the duration or, God forbid, for the more pious amongst us (down on one knee thumping my chest) the drink.

Generally, placed smack-dab in the middle of Lent, this Christian equivalent of Ramadan, comes the dedicated celebration of our patron saint, a National holiday, when we pay homage to a Welshman who we abducted from his family as a boy.

Someone must have shown some kindness to him, because later in life, he returned to Ireland and attempted to convert us from our wicked pagan, pre-Christian ways.

The one shining light in the forty days is St Patrick’s Day –it is a bastion of relief from the long and hungry forty days of Lent.

It allows a person to break the promise of abstinence from all kinds of so called luxuries and the period of self sacrifice is cut in half,

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The St Patrick’s Day parade in Tralee last year. Photo by Dermot Crean

However, we also like the pagan ritual of shamelessly and boastfully ‘strutting our stuff’ and for myself the shining light of the celebrations is the St Patrick’s Day parade and the participation of the many schools, clubs, social, community and voluntary groups, that exist in our town. Our extended ethnicity is a delight.

I particularly like the pride which people show in their group and the willingness to do their best to make St Patrick’s Day memorable for all.

I love the ingenuity of groups who design the floats and make the costumes out of whatever they have at hand.

Down the years we have had a Sphinx drawn by a number of slaves, all in Egyptian clothes – once we had the offer of a Second World War tank which, for safety reasons, unfortunately had to be refused.

The many football clubs who usually have their juvenile teams all done out in their club colours and schools, with their musical and cultural input are, one and all, a credit to their mentors.

Each year we have an up and coming pop band doing their thing on the back of Miah Lynch’s truck and of course our very own Tralee Pipes and Drums.

It is a day for the parents to come out and watch their children marching down the streets of Tralee and be proud, to take the photos that will be shown for many years to come, a source of great reminiscence.

Before I started writing this column I did a bit of research into the St Patrick’s Day parades and I found some interesting facts.

The parades on Saint Patrick’s day are not originally Irish, they are an American invention and evolved a statement of a singular and stereotype of ‘Irishness’, far from being a celebration of ethnic and religious inclusiveness, as they are in most places today.

One of the longest-running and largest Saint Patrick’s Day parades in North America occurs each year in Montreal, whose  city flag includes a shamrock in its lower-right quadrant. The annual celebration has been organised by the United Irish Societies of Montreal since 1929. The parade has been held annually without interruption since 1824.

St. Patrick’s Day itself, however, has been celebrated in Montreal since as far back as 1759 by Irish soldiers in the Montreal Garrison following the British conquest of New France.

St Patrick’s day is a holiday in the tiny island of Montserrat, which is known as “Emerald Island of the Caribbean” because of its founding by Irish refugees from Saint Kitts and Nevis.

The holiday also commemorates a failed slave uprising that occurred on 17 March 1768. Along with Ireland St Patrick’s Day is a public holiday in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Tralee has had an ‘on off’ relationship with St Patrick’s Day parades until the current organising committee has made it a permanent feature on our social calendar.

Events such as the St Patrick’s Day parade could not happen without the willing participation of so many groups, which are a credit to our region.

The organising committee, stewards, volunteers, Gardaí, emergency services and local authority all combine to make St Patrick’s day and oasis from the drudgery of Lent, a collective re-awakening from Winter, a prelude to Spring and better things to come.

Go raibh mile maith agaibh go léir !

– The Wailing Wall

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