National Holidays all about embracing positive spirit
THERE IS no escaping the fact that the news of the world at the moment is driven by pain, sadness, violence and destruction. From the political unrest in Libya and Egypt, to the devastation in Japan following the earthquake and tsunami, there is absolute turmoil out there. And all this on the tail of political and financial woes in our own backyard.
Amidst all the commotion, it is essential more than ever to take stock of the positive aspects of life, the things over which we actually have control.
St. Patrick's Day is the perfect opportunity to do just that. No day in the Irish calendar seems to generate such a sense of camaraderie and reflects an overwhelming sense of pride and patriotism.
As an expatriate, I appreciate what these national holidays can mean and how they deliver positive clarity.
No day resonates more soundly with me as January 26 - Australia Day - the one day of the year I truly miss home and all things Australian.
The reasons that day affects me so significantly are twofold.
Firstly, it's the one day of the year dedicated solely to acknowledging exactly where you come from. It's a day to embrace the elements of a culture unlike any other - the simple tradi- tions, the history, the everyday things no other country seems to appreciate with quite the same passion - like Vegemite!
The second reason it is such a profound day is the sense of belonging it instils. Despite all our differences as individuals, we are united by a love of our homeland, a history shared and a sense of moving forward together.
I may not be Irish but I sense that these are the very same reasons March 17 is so important.
Many Irish people have spent time abroad and would no doubt have experienced a St. Patrick's Day event away from home. And as emigration soars amidst the recession, more Irish people than ever before will be away from home this week.
Yes, things at home are not perfect right now. Queues at social welfare offices continue to grow and the list of things about which to complain isn't getting any shorter.
But it is impossible not to notice the Irish spirit lives on and despite everything, people battle through the hard times, waiting with eternal optimism for the day when clearer skies appear again. And that is what national holidays like Paddy's Day are all about - embracing that positive spirit and putting it on show.
On Thursday all the eyes of the world will be on Ireland. Images of smiling faces, bodies adorned with the green, white and orange of the Irish flag and joyful gatherings will be broadcast everywhere.
In the case of expats such as myself, it's a chance to acknowledge the privilege of being lucky enough to call Ireland home.
At the end of the day, it is that sense of patriotism and pride that keeps us going in the face of all that pain, destruction and violence.
It is those moments when we can turn to one another and say, ' This is where I come from, and I wouldn't change it for absolutely anything' that mean the most.