I have mixed feelings about St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve never really got into going out and drinking Guinness on the day (though I do love having an occasional tipple of Guinness). My strongest memories of St. Patrick’s Day come from childhood, in particular St.Patrick’s Day about 20 years ago.
I was living in Roanoke, Virginia at the time and I was used to going to school in America by this point. I had got over most of the culture shock of having moved from Britain. I was young and I was adaptable. I wasn’t particularly sturdy though when I woke up one morning, I found that my pet gerbil had died.
I don’t think it was St. Patrick’s Day precisely as it must have been the weekend closest to the date. I’d got up to watch cartoons when I made the discovery, but I strongly associate that memory with St. Patrick because later that day we went to see the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
At the time I wasn’t really aware of what St. Patrick’s Day was for and why it was celebrated. I knew it was associated with Ireland, but not knowing any Irish people it never really registered with me as a child. Until of course I saw a parade in the centre of a small city in America celebrating their pride in their heritage by walking down a street and displaying it for all to see.
It was another culture shock for me, because apart from the Easter Parade and Remembrance Day Parade in the small market town of Hedon where I grew up (neither of which are times of celebration, in fact quite the opposite) I had never really seen such a spectacle before. We’re not really proud in Britain of our history, even though we have so much more to celebrate than the US.
In fact, when it came to my heritage in America I was bullied because I’m English, not Irish or Scottish. For the time I spent in America I felt discouraged because I wasn’t of Celtic origin, but English; the enemy as students were told in history class. I was teased mercilessly for it, and it took me a long while to get over it, especially when I moved back to Britain and got teased for being an American (oh the irony).
It is the source of my mixed feelings, because I was never allowed to feel by my peers that my heritage was something to be proud of displaying. My other very strong associations with that day because of my pet probably hasn’t helped, but thinking back to that day now that I’m less emotionally charged and a lot more secure in my own identity, my memories of St. Patrick’s day are honestly fantastic and those Americans I saw having so much pride in their heritage rather puts the tradition of just going to the pub for a pint to shame. It also put my bullies to shame for not being able to comprehend that I had a heritage of my own, and they made me feel awful for wanting to identify myself with it.