Possibly the funniest part was watching Asian tourists who’ve never heard of St Patrick’s Day pass by the event. While we were standing on a step watching a band play at Trafalgar Square, the cheeriest Asian man stopped to ask Marc about what was going on. He motioned toward the band, “Is that-a Saint Patrick?” Marc was confused but then realized that the man had read the huge banner above the stage, “St Patrick’s Day 2008.” So Marc said, “uh, no, it’s a band called ‘Aslan’ –they’re from Ireland.” The man listened intently, nodding, and then after a moment pointed toward the band and said, “Is…Patrick?” So Marc smiled and said yes.
What I love about St Patrick’s Day is that there is a sudden licence to be dressed to the hilt in ridiculous garb. There were people with huge foam shamrocks framing their faces, and giant top hats shaped like pints of Guinness, and people wandering around with fake leprechaun beards strapped to their faces. I love the release of self-consciousness and spirit of real celebration—people dancing in the squares, taking pictures of complete strangers, and reminding the world of that Irish spirit of light-hearted mischievousness.
Probably the highlight of the day was the finale at Trafalgar Square, when they brought all the bands who had performed that day back out onto the stage for a sing-along. They led the crowd of thousands in singing some old Irish tunes (and everyone but us seemed to know them by heart). Thousands of passionate and ridiculously dressed revellers sang their hearts out—and created a joyful noise that reached right to your heart, a sound that even the best choirs in the world can’t touch.