“A Sunday well spent, brings a week of content.”
– ENGLISH SAYING
As a student of British Studies, you learn quite a lot about English history. In fact, there’s an entire Mount Everest of things you learn about British history and culture, but believe it or not – St. Patrick’s Day never comes up even once! One should think that Ireland’s culture should be mentioned to a certain extent, but no. Therefore, it came as a rather pleasant surprise that I got to go to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade today, the culmination of three days of non-stop partying in London.
While St. Patrick’s Day is usually celebrated in Ireland on March 17th, London expands the celebration to three entire days. While there’s an ongoing Irish festival with food, music, and comedy at Trafalgar Square, the highlight takes always place on the last of the three-day-insanity: The St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It starts at 12:00 pm sharp near Hyde Park Corner, then proceeds towards Piccadilly Circus, and ends in Whitehall near Trafalgar Square after roughly 1,5 hours of music, dancing, and cheering.
The parade is just as multicultural as London itself. Of course, the majority of the participating acts are from Ireland or Irish communities and associations in London, but there were also a few Mexican and Bolivian groups integrated, adding to the cheerful atmosphere with traditional dances and music.
Green Park is probably one of the best spots to watch the groups pass by, since the masses of spectators are thinning out alongside the street and there’s no agglomeration like at Piccadilly Circus or Trafalgar Square. If you’re standing next to a group of dressed up people with massive costumes, expect to be caught on photographs by professional photographers working for news agencies and there’s even a tiny chance you might make an involuntarily appearance on TV. And even the weather was feeling generous today – it rained for a total of five minutes before the sun returned. But since this is London and the weather in London in spring is everything but predictable, better bring a raincoat (please don’t annoy other spectators with umbrellas) and sunglasses.
One of my personal highlights were the bagpipers. Since my trip to Scotland, I love that kind of music and it created a very ceremonial atmosphere. Then again, I’ve never seen Irish tap dancing live before and that was also very impressive. At first, I didn’t know what to expect and I overheard two German girls wondering if this woul be similar to our German carnival. To my massive relief, it was much more dignified than that. I find it curious that nations that love alcohol as much as Britain and Ireland do manage to keep their public celebrations completely seperate from their drinking culture and in my opinion, that’s something Germans should do as well. At this parade, nobody was drunk or even carried a bottle or chalice of beer and the ambience was much more cheerful and jovial than at any German carnival parade I’ve ever been to. The music, the dancing, and the getting together were enough to create a feeling of unity and I admire that. Moreover, I thought it was a wonderful idea to include the police and the fire brigade into the celebrations and not portray them as those who dull the atmosphere.
To summarise, it was indeed a Sunday well spent, so if the British are right, this week should bring nothing but joy and I’m very much looking forward to it, since tomorrow is my first day at work.