Losing Myself on St. Patrick’s Day

To say that it is problematic to realize you are extremely claustrophobic while trapped on public transportation and surrounded by sweaty, drunk bodies in Boston on St. Patrick’s Day is an understatement. On a normal day, T rides are tolerable, sometimes even enjoyable. But St. Patrick’s Day is not normal. I realized this too late, and as the T doors screeched closed I looked at my friends and realized we made a mistake. With every lurch of the train, the shamrocks on my headband bobbed back and forth as my body jolted into strangers pressed against me. We were in for a long ride.

For the past 118 years the city has shut down on March 17, and thousands flood the streets of South Boston for the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. In the past, as many as a million have turned out to celebrate, and with a clear sky and sunshine this there was little excuse not to go out on Sunday.

Hordes of Bostonians covered in green steadily streamed out of T stations all afternoon to join the parade, waving Irish flags and sipping on shamrock-shaped water bottles. Green, orange, and white confetti sprinkled the air as parade goers made a steady march forward. People of all ages came to celebrate, and participants ranged from college students to babies, grandparents to golden retrievers in leprechaun suits.

There were 122 parade participants representing four countries, six states, and every branch of the military. Participants ranged from an Irish rugby team to bagpipers from Spain, who waved to parade goers and threw necklaces into the crowd on their 3.6 mile route, which stretched from the West Broadway Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority station to the Andrew Station on Dorchester Avenue.

I have always been confused about what St. Patrick’s Day is really about, and I am Irish. But after going to the parade on Sunday, I think I figured it out.

St. Patrick’s Day is about learning to embrace chaos—to put life on hold for a day to have fun. Looking around at the screaming green bodies overflowing the train, I couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of what was going on around me.

About five minutes into the ride, a group of girls from Emerson tilted their heads back and started screaming the words to “God Bless America,” which quickly turned into a train-wide karaoke battle. There was no clear theme to the songs, which ranged from “Sweet Caroline” to “Shallow,” but everyone was singing, and the atmosphere of the train transformed in minutes from a tense, crowded, sweaty mess to a happy family.

Walking around Southie, the atmosphere was the same. Strangers on every corner were embracing, striking up conversation, and trading necklaces. Everyone was so happy, and that feeling is infectious. It’s easy to get caught up in the stress of classes, exams, and work that you sight of what is important: living. 10 years from now you’re not going to remember that Sunday afternoon spent in the library stress studying for an exam, but you will remember getting lost in crowds of leprechauns in South Boston for a couple hours on St. Patrick’s Day with friends.

St. Patrick’s Day is a reminder not to take life too seriously. Like my mom tells me all the time, “relax.” Let loose and have fun. Do something stupid every now and then, just don’t get arrested, because that kills the vibe of what St. Patrick’s Day is all about.

Featured Image By Jonathan Ye / Heights Editor