Aye, there's no snakes in Ireland

I don't get particularly excited about Christmas.

I do go out every Christmas Eve and buy the seven requisite presents, and even try to be "a bit more original and less miserly this year". Last Christmas I actually made a traditional Hungarian potato salad using a recipe I found via Google. But honestly, on any given index of Christmas enthusiasm, I come up a scrooge. One of my sisters over-compensates for this deficiency of mine, and I suppose I'm grateful to her for that.

My birthday is worse. In the week leading up to it, I achieve such relentless depths of bitterness that people are unwise to submit themselves to my company for anything more than a couple of minutes. Some of my friends fondly recollect the drunken speech I delivered on my twenty-first birthday—the adjective most frequently used to describe it is suicidal. (I recently found a short piece I wrote when I woke up that long-ago day. If you are well behaved, I might put it up here. Or I might be nice and not.) But these days I'm not so openly melodramatic when August rolls around again. Less suicidal, more melancholic.

What else? Australia Day? Let me start by saying I'm quite certain I'm a patriot, and conclude by saying don't get me started. Anzac Day? Depends who won. (The footy, of course.) I think our de facto anniversary is sometime 'round then, too. Valentine's Day—see the previous sentence. Bloomsday? Now we're getting warm, but I have a terrible habit of not remembering until June 17, and then cursing like old Molly Bloom.

Basically I conserve all my annual festive spirit to concentrate upon a single particular rotation of the globe. As I write, that joyful arc commences in just 168 hours. It is the day I open the locked vault and take out my maroon tie with the golden Guinness harps, and proudly knot it a heads-length below my old green felt hat with the bullet-hole in the back.

And then I step out, wondering where I will have breakfast, and what strange delicacies it will comprise, but never for a moment doubting what I will wash it down with.

After that, well it's always a bit of a blur.

A St Paddy's Day leprechaunI do have generous helpings of Irish blood from ancestors on both sides, but Irish culture never really percolated down through the generations. My wearing of the green every March 17 derives from more obscure sources. I read the three sorrows of story-telling over and over in my childhood, back when Harry Potter was just a twinkle in a young girl's eye. Cuchullin and Lugh of the Long Arm were my childhood heroes. A mischievous aunt could hardly have imagined what visions were wrought upon my daydreams when she said my grandfather had some claim to a castle in Ireland. (It was in fact a beloved family myth, later completely disproved.) In more recent years, my Gaelophilia has manifested in a passion for the Pogues. I saw Shane MacGowan a year ago, toothless and lame, unable to remember the words to any of his compositions, at most an hour from his death—as he has been for the better part of a decade. I responded like we all responded: I danced a jig and raised my glass.

I do not know exactly what I'm going to do next Wednesday, but I do know I'm going to spend most of the next eight-score hours contemplating it. So if you have any good ideas for St Patrick's Day in Melbourne, I wanna hear 'em.

Joseph | 9 Mar 2004

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