Saturday was St Patrick’s Day – when a large proportion of the Western world pretends to be Irish (aside from those who actually are Irish, obviously), and most of the rest of the world probably spends the day being confused as to what the Hell is going on. I think Auckland is the first place that I’ve lived where St Patrick’s Day is such a huge celebration – there is an annual St Patrick’s Festival, which included a St Patrick’s Day parade on Saturday morning that I went to see.
This is the first big event that I’ve been to here in New Zealand, and I was (pleasantly) astounded by how chilled out the whole thing was. The parade went down Queen St (the main street in Auckland’s CBD) and then down to the Viaduct Harbour, which is currently set up as the Volvo Ocean Race Auckland stopover Race Village (more about that in my next blog post…). I went to the Farmers’ Market before the parade, but was meeting a friend near the start of the parade, so I had to walk most of the length of Queen St just before the parade started. Considering that Auckland is the largest city in NZ (about ⅓ of the country’s population live here), I was expecting barriers everywhere, severe traffic disruptions and lots of police officers. The reality was much more pleasant and felt more like a small town parade (I was reminded a little of the Kate Kennedy Procession in St Andrews) – there was not a single barrier to keep the crowd apart from the parade, the traffic was stopped from going down Queen St all of two minutes before the parade got underway and I saw a grand total of 4 police officers the whole length of Queen St. What a wonderful relaxed attitude!!
The parade itself was good fun to watch. I think I’d describe it as a little thrown-together, but not in a bad way. There were four pipe bands spread throughout the parade (waking up to the sound of the bands practicing and warming up about 2h before the start of the parade confused me a lot), various Irish fiddle musicians and groups being towed on floats, and a procession of the crests of all the Irish counties. Nothing unusual there, but there were also a few groups whose main reason for participating seemed to be that they were just wearing green. Various Irish pubs were also represented, and in the middle of all of that the Honorary Consul General of Ireland in a vintage car, along with a random Asian drumming/dancing group (wearing leprechaun hats, which clearly made them Irish). Oh, and the Team New Zealand cheerleading team. I genuinely have no idea why they were there – I’m not aware that cheerleading is a huge thing in Ireland, and they weren’t even dressed in green. My personal favourite part of the parade was a group of children carrying sacks of potatoes followed by a carriage of people all in green with ginger wigs – because stereotyping is underrated, clearly. The Kiwis seem to have a general disregard for being incredibly PC, which I must admit I’m a huge fan of – it’s wonderfully refreshing! The parade drew to a close with St Patrick blessing everybody, surrounded by snakes and leprechauns (St Patrick was down with the leprechauns, don’t you know). Amusingly, the float with St Patrick was pulled by a Guinness-branded car – Ireland in an incredibly stereotyped nutshell?
Wherever you are in the world, I hope you all had an excellent St Patrick’s Day!