Brendan Corrigan explains what it’s like to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day in Bogotá and why his will be a fairly low-key celebration.
St. Patrick’s Day in Bogotá. Oh no. Here it comes again. Yes, it’s that semi-awkward time of year for all Irish-born people; St. Patrick’s Day, our national holiday.
You see, most of us Irish tend not to get too excited about things; we prefer to leave the fanfare and hyperbole to the Yanks, it’s what they’re good at.
So when you have a day to celebrate all that’s, um, good about our island and its people, things can get uncomfortable.
How do we normally cope? Well, in not untypical fashion, we drink alcohol-containing liquids and grin and bear it.
For in some quarters, which I kind of go along with, there’s a feeling that events seem to have got a little bit out of hand, thanks in no small part to those aforementioned, flamboyant North Americans.
Now of course, for as long as I can remember and since I commenced downing the odd tipple whilst socialising, beer has always been part of this day, just like any other.
Growing up in rural Ireland, you may have got a little parade in the local town, although it wasn’t always a given, and perhaps some Irish football game (not soccer, American Football or rugby that is, we’re talking Gaelic football) to provide other entertainment. All very tame stuff really.
Also, in my early adolescent days and before, a trip to mass was obligatory. It is, after all, a feast day commemorating the man who supposedly brought Christianity to Ireland; a Welshman at that. (You could say it’s like Colombians venerating and naming everything after someone born in Venezuela. How weird would that be? What’s that? They do?!)
Thus, at its root, it’s a Christian church — both Protestant and Catholic — holiday.
Nowadays, though, in a more multicultural and, thankfully, inclusive Ireland, the day has broadened to become a festival of all things Irish, much less tied to religion.
Plus, a modern, confident Ireland — the current economic problems notwithstanding — has upped the ante in terms of how it’s honoured. There’s a little bit more glitz involved now. And it’s not even just a day any more; you’ve got a week-long festival in many of the country’s bigger urban centres. “Hey, there’s money to be made from them there tourists!”
St. Patrick’s Day in Bogotá, in my personal experience, adheres to the more traditional, low-key affair – it goes off without much fuss. For the uninitiated, a trip to one of the ‘Irish’ pubs is a must, surrounded by some ‘Plastic Paddy’ types and plenty of green beer (which no Irishman has actually ever drunk).
For me and the Irish mates I have here, this is probably the least likely day you’ll find us in one of these establishments, which we rarely visit in any case.
It’s more likely to be spent in a neutral location, with hopefully a can of Guinness or two if they can be sourced (something that has become harder to do in Bogota these days), drinking to the day and badmouthing any silly gimmickry in its honour we witness.
So in a sense, like most other days, we just have an excuse to get merry and take the piss.
Brendan is an Irish-born freelance journalist and English teacher who has been based in Bogota since 2011. You can find more of his writing here.