There’s no craic mightier than being in a Saint Patrick’s Day parade

Writer Tina Pisco looks ahead to St Patrick’s Day with much anticipation as the parades return to our streets for the first time in three years - and says there’s no better time to bring back the craic
There’s no craic mightier than being in a Saint Patrick’s Day parade

Olivia Forbes, Grace Hyde, Muireann Halley and Millie Ahern from the Joan Denise Moriarty School of Dance who will be taking part in the St. Patrick’s Day parade, on March 17. Picture: Darragh Kane

OH, Glorious St Patrick, it’ll be good to see you again. Though I must admit that I’m not sure how to feel about it.

Like when you’ve missed something so much, for so long that it has faded into memory, its edges blurred. I used to look forward to you with such excitement and anticipation. Paddy’s Day meant the end of winter. It meant a day of high jinks and much laughter. Craic agus Ceol at full tilt.

There was no place on Earth I would rather be on Paddy’s Day than Ireland, preferably in Clonakilty. Standing in the freezing cold, wilting shamrock pinned to my left shoulder, pint in hand, waiting for the parade to finally start was my happy place. I once spent a St Patrick’s Day in Brussels, hopping from one Irish bar to another. It was not the same.

Nothing can beat a small town to celebrate that most celebratory of holidays.

Coming a close second to Clonakilty, was Cork city or Dublin. For nearly a decade I ran Craic na Coillte street theatre company and so March 17 was not only The National Holiday, it was also the culmination of months of hard work creating, building, and rehearsing a show that had a cast of sixty people who all needed to be transported, dressed, painted up, fed, and “watered”. The logistics were formidable but so was the pay off. Not only did we attend Paddy’s Day -we were Paddy’s Day!

One year I was in the parade on a bicycle, dressed as a nun in fishnet stockings and cowboy boots. I can honestly say that there is no craic mightier than being in a big St Patrick’s Day parade. Except for maybe the after party.

Tina Pisco, writer.
Tina Pisco, writer.

Two years ago, plans were coming together for Paddy’s Day 2020 in Clonakilty. The parade was scheduled for 3pm, starting as always, at the roundabout. I had got together with few friends to form a reggae band. We had our first gig booked for after the parade. It was looking to be a cracker of a Paddy’s Day. Then the parade was cancelled. The next day the gig was cancelled. Pubs were closed on March 15. On Paddy’s Day we stayed home and watched Leo Varadkar walk down those stairs and deliver a measured but very direct speech that chilled us all to the core. Our worst fears were confirmed. We were going into lockdown. And there we stayed, in one form or another for almost the next two years.

Nothing could have brought the message home more clearly than cancelling Paddy’s Day.  The craic was extinguished. 

Spontaneity was stopped dead in its tracks. Looking back on the Paddy’s Days in the Before Times, it feels like life was so much simpler then. The craic was easily had. Spontaneity was the order of the day. After two years of social isolation, micromanaging any meeting with another human, the thought of spontaneously joining a throng of strangers to celebrate together is alien to me.

Fast forward to March 2022. We are finally out of lockdown. We can see people’s faces again. The fear of Covid has been replaced by the fear of the war in Ukraine. It’s a weird time altogether. We were only starting to come to terms with what the last two years have brought and we are faced with another world-rocking situation. No better time to bring back the craic. And no better person to lead the charge than the Nation’s patron saint. Lord knows we could use a bit of fun. In fact, a parade is exactly what we need. This year’s theme in Cork city is particularly appropriate: Heroes-Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times. I’ll raise my glass to that.

To make up for the lost years, we’re having a four-day celebration this year. Needs must and I fully intend to get over my apprehension and embrace the day, to welcome back St Patrick with open arms.

I’m hoping that I’ll be able to pull away from the news in Ukraine and remember how much I used to love meeting new people. I’m hoping that we’ll all find that hint of madness that makes a session magic.

To quote my friend, the poet Dave Lordan in his poem Pandemic Prayer: Please let me be invited to a banger of a party…

So, Hail Glorious St Patrick. It’s been a long time, but we’re really happy to have you back. On Erin’s green valleys, look down with your love.

The Cork St Patrick’s Day Parade will begin at 1pm on Thursday March 17th and will also be live streamed – see the link on the Parade page on www.corkstpatricksfestival.ie

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