The Budapest Saint Patrick’s Day Parade 2019

Last year I did the unthinkable and skipped the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade- my excuse would be that since it always takes place very close to the March 15th long weekend, one feels tempted to use the extra bank holiday for some sort of city break and I could not resist temptation. This year, though, I remained firm, toiled like a true working class hero on Friday, went for a concert on Saturday and then duly showed up for the parade on Szabadság square on Sunday. Duly-and late, as this year the preparations started at 12:30, whereas the parade itself only left at 3 PM. Which meant that by 2 PM the all-important orange-white-green balloons had all been dispensed and the Guinness queue had ballooned out of control. The latter mishap was countered by some by resorting to questionable local lagers, which, on this holiest of days, is an unforgivable sin, so I always suggest going for the Hütte option instead. One firm promise I’d made before the parade, given the decluttering frenzy I’ve entered into alongside Marie Kondo and everyone else in the universe, was not to go for the free Guinness hat for an x number of beers (three, more precisely). Obviously, I now have one extra Guinness hat.

The most revolutionary development this year was nevertheless the weather, which was inexplicably and ridiculously warm for one day only, enabling everyone to opt for their summer green wardrobe, which in my case is the only kind of green wardrobe I have. There were therefore green shorts, green mini skirts, green crop tops, green spaghetti strap T-shirts and an array of green sports kits, from Ireland football and rugby shirts (though they’d just lost the Six Nations to pesky, but at least somewhat Gaelic Wales) to the understandable green-white hoops of Celtic and the colour coordinated but nevertheless odd options of Werder Bremen and Ferencváros.

The warm up also had some fairly interesting elements, such as what I assume must have been a dance routine to Jennifer Lopez, who does not necessarily strike me as the most Fenian thing out there. We did also have the compulsory bag pipe music (the kilted men finally looking fairly comfortable in bare knees and God knows what else), a young lady belting out the Irish anthem in the kind of soprano voice I am a bit scared of and a gentleman with a guitar raiding through the vastness of the classical Irish drinking song catalogue. This year’s top accessories seemed to be Irish themed bags, colour coordinated dogs (not only wolfhounds) and Instagrammable three leaf clover tattoos, of the temporary variety, though it would be quite funny to imagine one going for a Jameson binge and ending up with a forever clover across their cheeks, highly likely without being Irish in the first place.

Which brings me to the yearly grumble/criticism of how silly/inappropriate it is to have Saint Patrick’s Day parades outside of Ireland, because why would you celebrate someone’s else’s patron saint or it’s cultural appropriation or you have no idea what you are actually parading for. They may have a remote point, though in all fairness Saint Patrick’s Day as we know it was invented outside of Ireland anyway, by the Irish American diaspora, and is as such mostly an expression of longing, and particularly longing for something that never really existed in the first place, longing for an idea and a sense of community based on this idea. It can thus be interpreted in very different ways by different people, but everyone can participate, if they wish, no one asks for a passport or which side of a flag you belong to. In a world where we’re increasingly focused on what sets us apart it’s really a wonderful feeling to spend a sunny March afternoon wearing green and silly hats. Together.

PS: Though I may have played hooky last year, here are is a bit of a throwback to  2017 and 2016

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