At 10:00am the streets of Dublin are quiet and peaceful with the standard hustle and bustle of a Tuesday morning gone. The citizens of Dublin have left the city or holed up in their homes to prepare for today’s events. By 11:30 the people start flooding in from around the world crowing the streets between St. Patrick’s Cathedral and O’Connell Street. By noon, people from across the globe are pushed up against the small metal guardrails and wearing all of the green clothing they own. Tall green hats, scarves that say Ireland, green shamrock glasses, green wigs, and more are worn to celebrate the Irish ancestry everyone seems to possess. The parade begins and the energy in the crowd builds as we see the first signs of the parade approaching. Cheers rise up from the crowds as the horse drawn carriage and Volkswagen cars pass by signaling the beginning of the parade. The cheers are then joined by the sounds of marching bands as the Clondalkin Youth Band marches through, proud because they are the only band from Ireland in the parade. After the band, a flood of people in white and teal lab dresses and rounded, space-like helmets begins to pass by accompanied by techno music and followed by a giant, green metal bug. “Scientists” sit at a bench beneath the bug pushing and pulling levers that move the legs of the giant bug. My mind drifts to Lady Gaga and her avant garde style that would fit in so nicely with the parade outfits but I am re-focused on the parade when the marching band from Woodstock, Georiga creates a space between the Lady Gaga scientists and the sea of color that is coming next. Bright yellows, oranges, blues, purples, pinks, and reds fill the once grey streets and take me into the world of Fantasia as people dressed as clocks, flowers, pianos, and music notes dance by to happy music emanating from a giant blue DJ float. There are fuzzy heart costumes, dancing popcorn containers, and red and white stars that switch the theme from movies to food as dancing women dressed as pink ice cream start making their way past me. The colors are still bright but instead of frolicking florals it’s a parade of chipper candy. Sweethearts, cupcakes, ice cream, and cotton candy dance by and following them are a licorice peppermint person and a gingerbread man that take me back to the days of Candyland, Lord Licorice, and Queen Frostine…the card everyone fought for. A marching band from Indiana is used as a break between the Candyland children and the vampire that was running around between the band and the German band that introduces the futuristic dancers combined with more steampunk machinery and older people. The silver-clad dancers were quite a contrast to the brown, steampunk vehicles but the two created an interesting mix in some of the future-steampunk outfits of the adults. North Dakota State University’s Gold Star Marching Band comes next and their green and white show their St. Patrick’s Day pride…for a country they don’t live in. The next portion of the parade was beautiful and fluid. Pink, gold, white, and blue fabrics flowed as the women wearing them moved their arms and they were followed by increasingly big flowing female floats. The final pink flowing float was at least two stories tall and the fabric billowed and rippled in the wind and with the movement of the “arms” of the woman. Next is a break between floats for a marching band from North Carolina. Following the North Carolina marching band is a weather float with a giant sun sending air kisses to the crowd as tiny children dressed in yellow dance around him. Summer is followed by spring which brings girls dressed as clouds and raindrops with a rainbow float pushed by people in brightly colored rain jackets.
I’m not sure why the marching bands came from random places in the United States or what a giant duck bathtub float, giant metal animals, or women with giant colorful skirts singing opera has to do with St. Patrick or Ireland and there was very little green in the parade but I don’t think it’s about the parade at the end of the day. Sure, by the end of the day everyone will probably be quite drunk, there will be a river of urine on the sidewalk that mixes with the splattered piles of yellow-orange puke but what I saw today was people celebrating what it means to be alive and here and free to travel and drink and just have fun doing whatever crazy things they want without worry or shame. To me, being Irish means being able to embrace the “everything will work out” meaning behind “It’ll be grand” and living in the moment, day by day. And I believe this relaxed way of life is what people celebrate on St. Patrick’s Day.
We have about 24 days left in our program and the stress levels are rising as we realize how much we have to get done in this time. But you know what? Everything will work out…or as the Irish say, ‘It’ll be grand.’