The true meaning behind the international day of drunken singing, jokes about leprachauns and throwing up Guinness in the gutter…
Once upon a time the role of the Irish was fairly well defined; they were good for dying by the dozen while they built the English some castles, they grew potatoes (which the English then stole, leaving the Irish to starve) and guilt-ridden Catholic mothers raised enormous families while their fathers drank themselves to death.
In short, the Irish were good for a joke, provided you didn’t live there.
As a kid I used to be given huge volumes entitled 1001 JOKES FOR KIDS and I would spend hours trying to work out which of the corny gags might actually make an adult laugh. I always figured my best bet would be with one that began There was an Englishman, a Scotsman and an Irishman. It was all good, clean fun until one day I tried out my comic talents on a grownup from Ireland. I didn’t need him to tell me I wasn’t funny, the look on his face had already left me wishing I could become an innocent lamp stand or side table.
Times have changed, however. The traditionally destitute Irish have grown prosperous and now the Irish touch has achieved the status of exotic all over the world. From Budapest to Bogota, Irish pubs are the place to be as cheesy green decors and overpriced glasses of Guinness are sold with little shamrock flower marks in the froth. And don’t even start me on the leprachauns.
So in the spirit of hopping on the International Bandwagon, Road Junky would like to take a moment to explain the deeper meaning behind St Patrick’s Day. It’s a day that remembers a much-beloved Irish priest, St Patrick; when the Vatican passed a ruling in the 17th century forbidding the peasant population to drink hard spirits, it was Patrick who rose up in protest. He asserted that drunkenness was next to Godliness and declared his intention to drink himself to death with single malt whiskey unless the law was repealed.
It took 17 bottles of Ireland’s finest to send Patrick to his grave and his funeral was attended by tens of thousands of weeping Irish men and women and children. The turnout was so impressive that it sent shivers down the spine of the ruling elite and the Vatican was soon after obliged to step back from their austere prohibition and once again allow the whiskey to flow. Small wonder the Irish hold Patrick close to their hearts.
St Patrick’s Day is probably the only national day of celebration that other countries enjoy with equal gusto, presumably because it involves heavy drinking. So this week travelers everywhere will be looking for their local Irish pub to get absurdly drunk, play darts badly and start singing old limericks together, most of which they probably learnt from 1001 JOKES FOR KIDS.