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Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick's Day 2014

One of my favorite holidays is St. Patrick's Day.

It has nothing to do with the actual reasons for the holiday (which, thanks to some irish friends, I was wised up to in 2005), but, like many other Americans, the many newer ideas.

However, the day is still important.

While, in Ireland, it started as a dry, religious observance, throughout various US cities, the day is a way for people of Irish descent to show solidarity (the 19th and early 20th century weren't exactly good times for Irish immigrants to the US).  Plus, with almost four times the number of people of Irish ethnic descent in America than in Ireland, the culture meaning of 17th of March has evolved.

Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, just a difference.  One amplified for any American wanting to join in an American-style celebration abroad.

When I was a student in Belgium, I got together with a few friends and we threw our own party with the Irish students there.  It was a pretty easy concept to convey to attendees unfamiliar with the holiday.  Wear green.  Get Drunk.

However, in Norway, it's a little more difficult (obvious reason: Alcohol prices are much higher;  less discussed reason:  Cultural proclivity isn't a regular occurrence here).  But not impossible.

Two days ago, the Norwegian Irish Society held their annual, St. Patrick's Day parade.  With about 621 Irish citizens in Norway, I wasn't sure what to expect.

It was entertaining and different.

Unfortunately, my camera died about five minutes before the parade came pouring down Karl Johans Gate.

In most major cities in America, a St. Patrick's Day parade lasts about three to four hours with floats and various civic groups marching.  I often joke that it's not St. Patrick's Day until I see surly policemen and drunk, fat guys trying not to fall off the back of a flatbed.  Maybe even a fire truck for good measure.

In Oslo, this wasn't the case.

While Karl Johans Gate is typically "pedestrian only" (That didn't stop the VG car from zipping down) it is one of the busiest streets in the city.  This past Saturday, as usual, it was filled with people as the parade made its way down the cobbled walkway.

Leading the way were three policemen on horses clearing a path.

They were followed by two people with the above "Oslo St. Patrick's Day Association" banner, a guy holding a large, Norwegian flag, a woman holding a smaller, Irish flag, and a series of people holding various, Irish regional flags.  The grand marshal was waving to everyone as he walked amongst the group in, what I imagine, was a costume resembling the day's namesake.  They were followed by a drum and bagpipe ensemble which was immediately followed by what was a colourful combination of Irish-Norwegians, Irish immigrants, and random people who were trying to get across Karl Johans Gate/figure out what was going on/looking for their guide group.  The rear was brought up by a marching band.

The whole thing was over in 10 minutes.

The parade continued down to Universitetgata plass where a nice ceremony took place (though, healthy portions were in Norwegian because Oslo).  The highlight was the short speech by a high ranking Irish minister who flew in specifically for the celebration and to address the crowd.  His remarks seemed slightly confused, but energetic which would be the best way to summarize the day's events.

Outside of this, my two highlights were said high ranking Irish minister's car arriving somewhat behind the beginning of the ceremony and almost crashing into one of the police horses and a Orchestra group, who was attempting to perform a recital behind the National Theater, pretty much having their whole set crushed by the "celebration".  Hats off to whomever scheduled their musical ensemble on the day Oslo has one of its two parades.

Oh, afterwards, our social club went out drinking because, even when you're in a new country, some traditions must always be followed.


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  1. that's quite a different St Paddy's than the "ye olde 'merican" version.

    1. True… though, like all America's other soft imperialist advances, it is slowly changing. Each year it gets a little more "festive".

  2. I am left wondering a little (though not really caring) why the Americans think they own the "right" way to celebrate St Patrick's day. To me it looks like religion being misinterpreted as an excuse for a drink. And who in modern Norway needs religion as an excuse for anything?

    1. First, thanks for reading and caring enough to leave a comment!

      Second, I'm not sure where in/how from this entry, you got the sentiment that I was espousing a "right" way to celebrate the holiday.

      In the fifth paragraph I plainly state there isn't a qualitative value to any form of celebration ("this isn't a bad thing") and reflected that finding "American-style" festivities abroad was difficult.