St Patrick's Day 2021

Beannachtaí lenár muintir agus leantóirí HITA go léir agus muid ag druidim le Lá Fhéile Pádraig.

Greeting to all our HITA family and followers as we approach St. Patrick’s Day.

My first memories of St. Patricks emerge in 1980’s rural Ireland. My sister was in the local school band and the weeks before March 17th would see the sounds of her practising the recorder, a cream and green wind construction, that might possibly hold the record for the worst sounding instrument in the world.

The day itself always included mass where in advance the shamrock would have to be pinned to our jumpers or my fathers suit jacket. A notoriously difficult little plant to wear as a buttonhole, as it doesn’t like being out of water and was always a dead mess by the end of mass.

I remember ‘Hail Glorious St. Patrick” being sung. A heavily religious booming anthem filled with passion about exiles and the land of birth. A much better rendition on RTE Radio One would be turned up loud around noon by my mother, who had a soft spot for John McCormack and Frank Patterson, the old masters of this song.

One year we did go into the local towns parade and I remember seeing my sister walk along with the school in the town parade, all in their navy and white uniforms, playing one of many screaming recorders drowning out the nicer accordion’s. They were followed by a few open backed lorries with an oddly dressed St Patrick throwing out mandarin oranges to us to catch. It was also a day my father marked by starting to sow the seed potatoes for the coming years harvest! I think these memories might be very common for many of this era.

We have come a long way since then! In my work in community development in DCC many years later I first met HITA’s wonderful partner and choreographer Muirne Bloomer, when we developed the ‘City Fusion’ project with St. Patricks Festival.

The Celtic Tiger days and Ireland’s booming economy saw new immigration and many new cultures living in Ireland. Contrary to fears often spread of cultural dilution from immigration, I believe this actually ignited a fresh and much needed analysis and rethinking of our culture and a more enriching and deepening expression of it.

New cultures wanted passionately to celebrate their own days, their own festivals to connect to their homeland as we the Irish did for many years abroad. St. Patrick’s Day would not have such international resonance were it not for the Irish celebrating their home culture and traditions.

I think this period challenged us as a nation to jumpstart ourselves out of the old, archaic ways dampened by economic depression, emigration and the entwining of church and state for decades. The chance to express new ways of Irishness and celebrate shared and common values, connections in music and dance was born out in the ‘City Fusion’ project and it witnessed some incredible creativity, inclusion and a new celebration of what Irish means, that was reflected in all the parades since.

Indeed, the entire St. Patrick’s Festival has evolved, grown and become more enriched by so much new expressions of art, culture and celebration. I do think that time will show ‘City Fusion’ was a vital cultural bridge in our new millennium.

We are delighted in HITA to continue in that spirit this year in joining SPF to celebrate our national day. I interviewed Rev. Nóirín Ní Riain earlier this month on her memories of St. Patrick’s Day and she shared some fascinating history and cultural stories these and on the man himself. As we mentioned this festival has international influence and so many cultures and individual’s are inspired by it. One of these is Gigi Li, an International MSc Digital marketing student in UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School. She has created ‘Gigi’s Kitchen’ cooking up a fabulous feast for her landlord, check out her youtube video this week. SPF is nothing without dance, and we are delighted to have Dylan Holly teach a fantastic hip-hop themed dance that the whole family can learn. There is also a fantastic level of online classes, the virtual parade, arts, film, ceili’s, stories, poetry, Sean-nós singing to name just a few on the official website and TV at The old mandarin orange throwing days may be gone, but you know before I sow my seed potatoes in the garden and tune in to this year’s fantastic offering online, I might just throw on Frank

Patterson full blast this St. Patricks Day morning and allow a tear of nostalgia fall in memory of all those gone from that time. It maybe a year for it!

Wishing you all a peaceful, happy and safe St. Patrick’s Day. Ag iarraidh Lá Fhéile Pádraig síochánta, sona agus sábháilte duit uile.

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