St Patrick’s Day in Ireland

Shamrocks - pick a few and tuck them in your pocket!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

But first, please save me from American advertising!  Whoever started the change from Paddy to Patty should be taken behind the barn and pelted with cooked cabbage.  Patty is a girl’s name, for heaven’s sake, and nothing to do with the venerated Irish saint.

Patrick, in Irish, is Pádraig.  Pronounced something along the lines of pah-drig or poh-rig, depending on which part of Ireland you’re from (and how much this American can mis-interpret Irish pronunciation).  Pádraig is no doubt where the nickname Paddy comes from, so please don’t say Patty.  Madison Avenue, are you listening?  More to the point, local PR firms putting ads in local newspapers and TV stations, are you listening??

OK, rant over.  I promise.  Maybe.

One more comment about St. Patrick’s name.  If the Irish shorten it to anything, it’s St. Pat’s, or just Patrick.  That seems to go for anything from the holiday to churches to streets. (“Patrick Street” in Cork city is actually “St. Patrick Street,” but hardly anyone says that.)

Americans may think corned beef and cabbage is the traditional celebratory Irish dish, but I’m not sure the Irish know what it is!  (Well, actually, I think Ireland used to make a lot of corned beef, but it all got sent overseas.)  What they do have is “bacon-and-cabbage” which sounds weird but is scrumptious.  Bacon over there is more like our ham, and while I’m sure it can be fixed quickly, some recipes take three days of cooking!  And it shows up year round (bacon and cabbage nights, followed by a dance, are popular fundraisers), not just on March 17.  You’re as likely to find a nice salmon or chicken dish, or even Irish stew, as you are bacon and cabbage for the holiday.

The other thing Americans get hung up on is giant, bright green shamrocks – it can’t be St. Patrick’s Day without them.  I think they’re fun, but you’ll only see them occasionally in Ireland in window displays (very occasionally).

The shamrocks you do see are darling – a small bunch of real shamrocks tucked in a breast pocket or pinned on a shirt.  They’re wilted by the end of the day, but it’s a small reminder to carry with you.  At least, that’s what I saw living half out in the country.  I have no idea what Dubliners do!

"Leprechauns" in the St Patrick's Day parade in Bandon, Co Cork

The standard decorations in Ireland are a lot of flags and Irish colors.  Orange, green and white t-shirts, parade costumes, silly socks, and filling shop windows.  Even the leprechaun costumes are green hats and orange beard.!

Oh yes, the parades.  St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday, and even the smaller towns hold parades.  They may be fancy affairs in the cities, but they’re charming and home-grown in the outlying areas.  Pipe and drum bands, dancers, old fire engines – delightful.  The children watching (and a few grown-ups, too) are often dressed in costumes.

And dancing – it’s not hard to find a céilí (kay-lee) no matter what part of the country you’re in, often combined with a dinner.  It’s great craic, lots of music, dancing with whoever will stand up with you, laughter and pushes in the right direction until you get the hang of it, out of breath and nearly keeling over when you finally take a break.  And taxis to take                                                                                 you home if you have a few too many pints.  Hmm,                                                                                      I think a céilí needs its own post.

Céilí in Carrigaline, Co Cork. (Sorry, camera color wasn't good, sepia is the best I could do.)

Beyond the small local celebrations, Ireland’s cities all have St. Patrick’s Day festivals stretching across several days – stages of musicians and dancers, beer festivals (Guinness, Murphys or something else?), historical walks, children’s games, street performers, scrumptious food, parades, fireworks, and loads and loads of trad music.  You name it, you can find it sometime around March 17th.

For Americans who can’t be in Ireland, it’s usually the music that tugs at our hearts.  So here’s a short clip about Cork’s festival that will have you tapping your toes while you watch.  And happy St. Patrick’s Day!


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15 Responses to St Patrick’s Day in Ireland

  1. It sounds like I would love the dinner and dances. You just don’t find anything like that in North America (unless you’re into bumping and grinding which I’m not–I don’t consider that dancing). Thanks for giving us a look at how St. Patrick’s Day should be celebrated 🙂
    Marcy Kennedy recently posted..Yoda Was WrongMy Profile

    • Jennifer Jensen says:

      Hi, Marcy. I think the closest thing here is a good old-fashioned square dance, but a ceili has a lot more variety. I only got to two, but they were a lot of fun. Happy St Pat’s!

  2. Debra Eve says:

    I did grad work in Ireland, but was never around for St. Patrick’s Day. The other students told me it was more an American holiday that got ported over there, and that they usually celebrated it as a religious feast day (if they were still practicing) by going to Mass. That was 20 years ago, however, and it looks like it has really spread! Thanks for a great insight, Jennifer!
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  4. Jennifer Jensen says:

    Hey, everyone! An Irish writer friend commented on my Facebook link to this, and included how to say “Happy St. Patrick’s Day” in Irish.

    Lá fhéile Phadraig shona dhuit!

  5. This was awesome! And I watched the whole video just to listen to the music. Who isn’t uplifted by music like that?!
    Melinda VanLone recently posted..The Internet Has My SoulMy Profile

    • Jennifer Jensen says:

      Oh yeah. It was fun seeing shots of Cork, but mostly it was the music that grabbed me too. And that lovely, typically Irish face on the girl in the last shot!

  6. Jennifer Jensen says:

    OK, everyone, my Dublin writer friend, Jane Mitchell, YA author of the incredible book “Chalkline”, says this about “Happy St. Patrick’s Day” in Irish:

    This is how it *might* be pronounced (with apologies to all phonetics experts!): Lá = Law, fhéile = ayla, Phádraig = faw-rick, shona = hunna, dhuit = gwitch!

    So, lá fhéile Phadraig shona dhuit!! (la-ayla-fawrick-hunna-gwitch)

  7. Well, being that my maiden name is Murphy and my family is from county Cork, I would be having a Murphy’s stout you know! 🙂
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  9. Thanks for the glimpse and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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  11. I visited Ireland last April and loved it. I so want to go back!
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  12. Thanks for the tour of Ireland. I learned a few things and enjoyed the photos. Found you on iWriteNetwork.

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