Ben Lowry: St Patrick’s falls at a key point in the seasons, before the equinox

A gardener at work among spring flowers at Kew Gardens, in Richmond, London on Friday March 16, before much of the UK is set to experience cold temperatures and snow on St Patrick's Day.  Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
A gardener at work among spring flowers at Kew Gardens, in Richmond, London on Friday March 16, before much of the UK is set to experience cold temperatures and snow on St Patrick's Day. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

St Patrick’s Day has so many different associations.

Mostly, of course, it is Ireland and Irish culture, but for some people it is a religious date, and for others it is sporting fixtures. For me it is a turning point in the seasons.

In much the same way that James Joyce’s fictional Bloomsday was set on June 16, just before the June 21 summer solstice, or in the same way that the Christmas holidays approach their apex at the winter solstice, of December 21, so St Patrick’s Day takes place a shade before the equinox of March 21.

It is a mixture of wintry darkness and summer brightness.

It is a good time to be in Ireland, which has hints of both seasonal flavours at this time of year, but also to be in a ski resort which will still be snowy, or a southerly beach resort, which will now be sunny.

The days, so noticeably longer than they were weeks ago, soon move into their super-long phase.

Much as I love June, and its particularly long days, the last part of that month is tinged with melancholy and the awareness that summer, while in some respects it is only beginning, has in another respect passed its height.

But in mid March we know that the weather and sunlight and wildlife will get better and better for weeks and months.

From March 21 there will be more daylight than darkness.

One of our veteran letter writers, Colin Nevin, this week reminded us that “St Patrick’s true day is the Sabbath”, which was Saturday.

For those of us who work on newspapers that publish Monday to Saturday, Saturday is its own ‘sabbath’ because it is the one day we rarely work, given that there is no paper edition the following day.

It is a day when I avoid the noise of the internet, and often read a lot of printed words.

Saturday February 17 was the first point of the year when it was warm enough to do so outside, given the strength of the sun that day.

It was all the more pleasurable knowing that the warmth and presence of the sun is growing daily.

• Ben Lowry (@BenLowry1) is News Letter deputy editor

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