The United Arab Emirates celebrate their National Day on the 2nd December. The celebration lasts for at least two days and this year marks the forty first anniversary of their formal independence from the United Kingdom. Almost everywhere throughout the UAE houses, shops and even cars are adorned with the colours of national flag, black, white, green in horizontal stripes and a vertical red block at the post end. Every supermarket large and small have a decided aisle of national day accoutrements, face paints, felt hats, decorative badges, bunting, flags, paper lanterns the list continues, very similar to our St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, without the alcohol and the rain.
In recognition of this day, children at school in Abu Dhabi are learning about this day and while the historical significance may hold little interest for them the opportunity to have a non-uniform day and dress up was very appealing. Everyone in the class had to dress up in their national dress and deliver a summary of what their homeland meant to them. Being an Irishwomen of considerable patriotism and priding myself on having instilled same patriotism in my daughters, I was intrigued as to what they would come up with, my rounded influence , was going to shine.
Not having a national dress, it was going to take a little imagination to come up with the costume, the classy Riverdance black dress and tights was one option, Riverdance bringing the tradition of Irish dancing into the modern day, a triumph of how our national dance has withstood the test of time and is managing today to entertain audiences all over the world, a lot to be proud of there. Another option was to tog out in their county kit complete with helmet, hurley and sliotar, they could regale their international classmates about tales of the fastest ground sport in the world and how the All Ireland final draws crowds of up to seventy thousand people and is watched by over a million, all this for an amateur sport where the players play for the honor of representing their county and for a fee, surely the GAA would deserve a mention. An alternative to both could have been a simple pair of steel rimmed glasses and the token flopping hair to depict any one of our talented poets and playwrights. Hit them with a verse from Ulysses. A sure winner.
Although not a competition I realise, so with quiet promise I waited for the morning of the National Day as I looked forward to learning what a young teenager and Irish Emigrant views were on what being Irish. Words can’t describe the depth of anguish felt when child number one, opted for a green T-shirt with the words, “Kiss me I’m Drunk”, the tatty, tacky T-shirt was complimented by an oversized Leprechaun hat and a plastic shillelagh. I could hear the diddle e aye somewhere in the ether, a dodgy trip back to D’Arby O’Gill and the little people, but admittedly a Patrick’s Day costume so credible I could feel the fight in the chipper brewing already. Number two went for a different approach, a more subtle approach it would seem, as I looked at the glittering Juicy Couture symbol on her tracksuit my eyes were drawn down to the tan coloured UGGs and back up to the fake nails on her orange hands which held a bus pass. I didn’t get it. When she pointed out that she was dressed like an Irish person who had to sell her convertible Mini to pay off her credit card and now she had to get the bus to town, she waved the handmade “BUSS PASS”, , it all made sense. Luckily for us we opted to leave the country rather than have to take the bus, thus the reason the spelling was lost on us.
Watching the children walk through the school gates in two’s and three’s I caught sight of the unmistakably stylish French representative, navy and white sailor like top and matching Beret, the flamboyant Spanish Senorita and her little brother ,the Matador, the structured German lederhosen and the cool Texan with the Stetson. Wearing their legacies and proud of same. Walking behind these honorable legacies were our two Irish costumes representing what young teenagers view Ireland as today, Drunk and Broke. Forget the musicians, sportspeople, stars and poets, It would seem that romantic Ireland is dead and gone.