How to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day Like the Irish
St Patrick’s Day, or the Feast of Saint Patrick, is a public holiday dedicated to the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick. Celebrated on 17 March every year (the traditional death of St Patrick himself) St Patrick’s Day (or ‘Lá Fhéile Pádraig’ as Gaeilge) is a cultural and religious celebration commemorated worldwide. But no-one — and we mean no-one — does Paddy’s Day quite like the Irish do. Éireann ábu!
The anticipation for St Patrick’s Day begins months in advance, when Irish people feverishly check their calendars to see what day it falls on – it’s crucial to maximise the time off work. St Patrick’s Day, you must understand, is a beacon of light in the depressing aftermath of New Year’s, where in a moment of mass motivation people have resigned themselves to Dry January and a life without carbs. Holiday requests for March 18th will hit HR desks from January 1st.
To get in the spirit of the day, you have to take a trip to Dunnes Stores or Dealz and pick out suitably festive outfits – both for the youngsters and the big kids of the day. Think green, orange and white; curly ginger wigs that makes your head itch; oversized green leprechaun hats; sparkly shamrock sunglasses; shamrock pins; Irish flags and OTT face-painting. A word of warning for the face-paint enthusiasts; your perfectly painted four-leaf clover or harp will no longer resemble anything but a tricolour smudge by the end of the day/night – embrace it! Be prepared for the well-meaning swapping (a.k.a stealing) of all of this Paddy’s Day miscellanea in the pub; do yourself a solid and come home with a stranger’s elasticated beard and oversized tie – that’s next year’s get-up sorted!
If you’re in a community group or a local business, chances are you might be involved in your town’s parade. Every year, festive floats are made and feature in processions in towns and cities all over Ireland; these are accompanied by traditional Irish music, schoolchildren and local or migrant community groups. Most parades take place around lunchtime; it’s a great atmosphere and huge crowds gather in the town. The parade is a total assault on the senses with lots of lively music, bright colours and the smell of street food from all the stalls lining the streets. Just make sure you get in early; all of the authentic Irish craic is in the early afternoon!
If you’re a bystander, every year you’ll have the best of intentions regarding the parade; you’ll promise yourself you’re going to get into town early, secure a good spot in the crowd and an even better view of the parade – right in front of the barriers. Inevitably, you’ll be late, marvelling at how early families arrive (even though it’s the same every year) and end up stuck behind a child brandishing a green balloon in your face. You’ll also probably complain that the parades they put on now are never as good as the ones you went to when you were little – nostalgia is a powerful thing. It’s still great fun though, which is why the crowds at the parade are a mix of big and little kids alike!
Here’s a picture from last year’s St Patrick’s Day parade in Waterford city, taken by our Managing Director Rosie Mansfield.
When the parade is over and people migrate towards the pubs, you’ll discover that just about everyone has Irish roots; most tourists will claim some semblance of Irish ancestry after tasting a bit of the black stuff. This is particularly the case with our American friends – be ready for long-winded, often confusing Irish connections, like someone’s mother’s sister’s neighbour’s boyfriend’s second-cousin-once-removed’s boss’s father-in-law being from Kilkenny. (Did you get that?) It’s all in good fun though – we can’t blame anyone for wanting to be Irish.
Once you’ve ordered your pint and found a vacant stool by the bar, your next step is to have the obligatory Paddy’s Day versus Patty’s Day argument. Every March 17th, without fail, you will encounter the contentious debate that has divided friends and families alike since the dawn of time. Is it Paddy’s Day or Patty’s Day? (It’s Paddy’s Day.) While not as schismatic as the pronunciation of scone – clearly scone like phone, not scone like on – it’s still a hotly disputed topic. Just remember that Paddy is a diminutive of Patrick, and patty has nothing to do with the patron saint of Ireland.
As the day goes on, Irish people will begin to crack out the only two Irish dancing moves they remember from primary school. Thanks to the pubs playing traditional Irish songs all day long – mostly on repeat, which people A) don’t notice or B) don’t mind – there’s always a chance of a ceili. Or if a pub’s not your cupán tae, then never fear – the streets will be littered with buskers and street performers. Get ready to channel your inner Michael Flatley and feel like a long-lost Riverdance extra – a h’aon, dó, trí, a h’aon, dó, trí…
With St Patrick’s Day being such a patriotic day for the Irish, it’s only natural that people become much more inclined to use their native language and speak as Gaeilge. We’ve included some cúpla focail (couple of words) to get you through Lá Fhéile Pádraig (St Patrick’s Day). If you say “Pionta Guinness, le do thoil!”’ to the barman, you’re asking for pint of Guinness. Once received, tell him “Go raibh míle maith agat!” (Thank you very much). And when you’ve returned to your group of friends, say “Sláinte!” (Which is a toast to good health, meaning cheers). You’ll also see “póg mo thóin” – which means kiss my arse – on just about everything, from shamrock-embellished boxer shorts to novelty ties and other paraphenalia.
For many Irish people, St Patrick’s Day is the best, most-loved national holiday of all. Despite being celebrated around the world, being able to experience Paddy’s Day in Ireland is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that makes it onto most people’s bucket lists. In Ireland, Lá Fhéile Pádraig is a day for everyone – whether you’re a foodie looking to sample some local cuisine from a street stall or you have hankering a green pint in a real Irish pub. Despite the reputation, it’s not all about drinking; it’s also a real family day out with lots of attractions and entertainment for the kiddies. If it’s at all possible, we at GoCambio recommend you go green and visit Ireland on March 17th – you won’t regret it, and you definitely won’t forget it!
About the Author: Emma is a 23-year-old copywriter at GoCambio and part-time shoe seller, so she’s always ready to think on her (size 5.5) feet. With a background in English, History, and Creative Advertising, some of Emma’s passions include fashion, travel, writing, film and social media. And tea. Black, no sugar.