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.

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