Last week was that All-American holiday, St.
Patricks Day. You laugh but I hear that its more festive in the
U.S. than in Ireland. In the U.S. its celebrated mainly by the
Irish, by those who wish they were Irish, by those who pretend to be
Irish, and by those who know or heard of someone who is Irish. It
isnt necessarily that way everywhere, though.
The previous Saturday, Lynn and I went to a St.
Patricks Day parade in Utrecht that we discovered by going to an
expatriate website. There was a list of a whole day full of
activities. Pat was supposed to arrive by boat on a canal at
Stadhuisbrug, the State House Bridge (the Dutch love to combine
words to give a much longer word). We got there at the appointed
hour and werent sure if it was the right place because there was
not a lot of activity. Then we saw some people gathered on the steps
of the Stadhuis and others came around passing out more literature.
Eventually, the boat with St. Patrick came down the canal in an
armada of about three vessels. Pat waved and the people cheered. He
disembarked, climbed up the stairs from the canal to the street and
so began the parade.
It was not exactly the parade in Philadelphia or
New York. The parade route was about 100 yards. There had to be tens
of people there. Maybe as many as eight or nine tens of people.
There was a speech by the Irish ambassador to the Netherlands, and
by the assistant mayor of Utrecht. Pat himself also spoke. Ive read
that St. Patrick was actually British but he had a very pronounced
Dutch accent. They announced on the website that there would be
authentic Irish goods for sale. Nothing that said "Ireland" in big
print and "made in China" in small print. They used a small church
and had units of booths with Irish goods for sale. Maybe as many as
eight or nine units.
While we were outside watching the parade, a
woman on a bike stopped and asked what was going on. We told her. "I
thought St. Patricks Day was in November," she said. I was amazed.
Then on the following Monday, Lynn told a reasonably worldly young
Dutch woman (who earlier this month had been to Philadelphia and New
York and has talked about other trips to Hong Kong and the far east)
about what we did, and this woman had never heard of St. Patricks
Day at all.
On Wednesday, Lynn left for a few days for a
management development seminar in the eastern part of the country.
While she was away, I went to a restaurant alone one night. We had
been to this place when we were here in April last year while
considering making the move to Delft, but we had not been back
since. The restaurant is called The Dirty Nelly - an Irish
Grillhouse , where all the wait staff are authentically Dutch. I was
three quarters through my dinner when I realized that this was the
actual St. Patricks Day and there was not one sign of anything
special going on in that Irish pub. This makes me think that St.
Patricks Day may be more of an event in the U.S. (or perhaps the
English speaking world) than anywhere. There are more Irish
emigrants to other countries than any other nationality because so
many left during the potato famine and propagated elsewhere. (I read
an article in an Irish newspaper last fall that said without the
famine, the population of Ireland today would be about 16 million
instead of four million, and that John Kennedy might still be
sitting in a rocking chair on the family farm in Wexford.) My theory
is that when they left, they went far, to North and South America,
Australia and New Zealand. Europe was too close to home.
The next authentically Dutch holiday is Queens
Day on April 30. I cant wait to see this one. The Netherlands is
supposed to become one giant partyland for a day.