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Celebrating the ‘Rare Auld Times’

Last update - Sunday, April 1, 2012, 13:39 By Logan Raju

The story goes that St Patrick rid Ireland of all its snakes. Indeed, there are no snakes in Ireland, except perhaps at the zoo or in pet shops. I was puzzled but accepted the idea when I first arrived in Ireland. Of course now St Patrick must be turning in his grave with the new kinds of snakes around in Ireland today!

But even with all that’s going on, St Patrick’s Day remains a day for celebration. I spent my first one here studying and being a really good student. But the second was rather different. Living in Ranelagh, it was convenient to head to town and watch the parade and have a whale of a time with my Malaysian and Irish friends, just taking in the atmosphere.
The buzz and excitement was everywhere, the restaurants and pubs all full. And they were serving green pints of beer! I can’t really describe the taste – it wasn’t that strange but definitely a novelty.
Our little group met up again later in the evening, and I noticed that many of the same people I’d seen drinking in the pub earlier in the day were still there late at night. Everybody was having a wild time drinking, singing Irish ballads, hugging, kissing, arguing, even sleeping! People were making friends with us ‘foreign students’, and if you bought somebody a drink, you were buddies for life. Believe me, that’s how a lot of my friendships started! Everyone was a ‘Paddy’ that day, and the craic was 90!
Many years later, I celebrated my first St Patrick’s Day back home in Malaysia. It was 2001 and I was invited by the Irish Embassy to attend their special event at one of the top hotels in Kuala Lumpur. What a night! Diplomats, government officials and media were all there. And I was somewhat of a novelty figure too, being the Mayor of Blackrock at the time. It was indeed a great night and I’ll never forget it.
For this year’s St Patrick’s Day in Bray, as always I led the ethnic minority groups under the banner of the Bray Intercultural Committee. I also managed to arrange performances by the Latvian Elve Choir and Moribo-Wa Africa, an African drum and dance group, for the first time.
As ever, my Southside Chinese Residence Association took part along with Filipinos and eastern Europeans in the parade. The Latvian Ambassador was invited too, with other members of the diplomatic corps and assorted VIPs in the reviewing stand. The rain did come down eventually but the parade was over by then!
It was indeed great to see so many ‘foreign’ faces with the locals. Participation is one of the keys toward integration. Some had actually travelled from Dublin to see the parade in Bray, which was on a smaller scale and definitely a family day.
Meanwhile in Dublin, the buzz was incredible with all the tourists. Moreover, being celebrated in many parts of the world. St Patrick’s Day isn’t just for the Irish – it’s definitely a day of fun, joy and laughter for everyone. The only sad part is when all the visitors leave and things get quieter again. Friends and relatives depart, and there are always tears after joy.
On a final note, my ‘lucky star Bonita’ celebrated St Patrick’s Day in Dublin, and perhaps one fine day she’ll be back here to enjoy it again. I’m sure, like many others, she will recall the ‘Rare Auld Times’.

Logan Raju is a Malaysian-Indian entrepreneur living in Ireland for 30 years.

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