St. Patrick’s season comes after one of the most miserable winters on record in the North East, but as always March 17 is a welcome harbinger of spring.
Traditionally that was what St. Patrick’s Day represented, falling close to the Ostara or the “Light of the Earth” festival in Celtic Ireland. St. Patrick himself was clever enough to cite major Christian celebrations close to pagan holidays, so it is, perhaps, no surprise his own feast day does that too.
In Celtic mythology the seasons were a great wheel constantly turning, and the celebration after the darkness of winter will be familiar to us modern day Celts given recent weather!
Though the seasons may be changing, it sometimes feels like St. Patrick’s Day issues in the modern day are stuck in a time warp. There is another crisis in the Northern Ireland peace process, a dispute among gay groups in the New York parade continues, and a Clinton and Bush are running for president.
First things first, and let’s not lose sight of an historic moment -- the first gay groups marching under their own banner in the St. Patrick’s parades in New York and Boston.
In Boston a gay Irish veteran’s group will march -- a tribute to the negotiating skills of Mayor Marty Walsh among others.
In New York OUT@NBCUniversal will join the line of march for the first time. OUT@NBC have been accused of everything from not being Irish enough to being capitalist tools, to not being gay enough -- but they are irremediably a recognized gay group among NBC employees marching under their banner in the St. Patrick's Day parade.
Though the controversy continues about whether they are gay or indeed Irish enough, the fact is that an historic principle has been conceded which is a major accomplishment by the parade committee. The fact that Cardinal Timothy Dolan has given his blessing and is taking part as grand marshal is deeply significant in itself.
Of course, like all battles on these issues, it is not a complete victory for the Irish gay groups who are entitled as much as anyone else to share in Irish culture and festivities and celebrate their heritage.
But it will be what this New York parade is remembered for, akin to 1989 when the first woman, Dorothy Hayden Cudahy, proudly marched up Fifth Avenue as grand marshal, or when Michael Flannery caused an worldwide storm of outrage and support when the IRA-supporting head of Irish Northern Aid was made grand marshal in 1983.
Elsewhere in the community, there will be concern about Northern Ireland where Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party are once again at loggerheads over the funding of welfare programs.
Both Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson are in the U.S. this week and through the St. Patrick’s Day period, and we can only hope that the time spent here and the benign influence of the American involvement will lead to a resolution.
March is also the kickoff of the political season it seems with Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush and all the other candidates entering the declaration stage of the presidential campaign.
Next March will be a momentous one with the Easter 1916 Rising centenary around the corner, a full flooded presidential campaign under way and who knows what else.
All that remains to say is a Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to everyone, and roll on spring!