St. Patrick’s Day is one of those days that has taken on a life far beyond what anyone ever imagined, becoming an event that has grown so large that it is celebrated the world over, even by people who have no idea about the who, what, when, where, or why of it. As a youngster growing up with a first-generation American, Irish-Catholic mother, St. Patrick’s Day was a solemn event that required the wearing of the green and the display of the Irish flag–my mother’s version was green, white and gold because no orange would visit her home. One year, when I was in elementary school, I was playing outside on a clear, crisp March morning when my mother flung open the front storm door and shouted “Thomas Kevin Joseph George!” and by the use of all four of my first names I immediately knew I was in deep trouble. She held open the door, crooked her finger and summoned me inside. Still not knowing why I was in trouble, I came. As I walked past her she swatted the back of my head and said “get to your room and stay there.” My transgression? I was wearing a nylon windbreaker. A red, nylon windbreaker. A mortal sin for an Irishman, wearing red on St. Patrick’s Day, a sin I never again repeated.
For years the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the Blarney Stone bars were a big part of my celebration, but moving to the Midwest and then quitting drinking dulled the subsequent celebrations.
I never would have guessed that I would move to Shanghai, China and partake in the biggest, fanciest St. Patrick’s Day celebration of all time, but that is exactly what we did. Last night, we attended the black tie, 10th Annual St Patrick’s Ball, presented by the Shanghai Ireland Association, at the Pudong Shangri-La Hotel. About 1,000 mostly, expats, ate, drank–free-flowing Jameson’s, Bailey’s and Guinness– and danced the night away.