St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland is a big deal but not necessarily a big “production”. It is a national holiday but in general it is a little more family oriented than is probably perceived in North America. There is a Saint Patrick’s Day celebration in almost any city or town of any size. The celebrations have two general personalities but many towns and villages fall in between the two. I’ll call them the “small town” personality and the “tourist” personality.
The small town personality is akin to the small town celebrations for the 4th of the July in the US. The local parade usually commences after the St. Patrick’s Day Mass and consists of the usual suspects: groups marching, grade school bands, the latest models from specialty vehicle dealers, the local classic cars, and several small town floats.
The groups range across the full spectrum from the local Soccer and GAA clubs (Gaelic Hurling and Football teams,) to marshal arts classes to the Philippine and Brazilian culture clubs. Yes, there is a fairly large immigrant community in Ireland, especially in the larger cities and they are proud to participate in the national holiday of their new country.
The grade school bands are fun to watch. There are a wide variety of instruments but they tend to be tin whistles, drums, and other percussion instruments. A unique instrument (to me) is the melodica, a cross between a pump organ and a harmonica. Occasionally, there is a band similar to those seen in the US. In the larger cities, there will sometimes be one or two High School or College bands from the US. These are always a great hit in Ireland.
Marching Band with the Melodica
Marshal Arts in a Medieval Town Includes Armor
The parade vehicles reflect the rural and agricultural roots of most of Ireland. The latest tractors and combines and thrashers will almost always be a part the parade. The latest ambulance and fire vehicles are always a hit with the younger crowd especially with the sirens whaling.
The Official End of the Parade
I've Heard They Get a Large Turnout
The local classic cars are always fascinating to me. Even after eight St. Patrick’s Day Parades in Ireland, I occasionally still see car brands from the 50’s and 60’s that are new to me. There are the few that were classics around the world like the mustangs from the 60’s. And then from the 50’s there are some models from Porsche, Renault and a few others.
Hadn't Seen This One Before
The small town floats have the usual politicians, heads of local farm organizations, etc. The local festival’s are also well represented and have their float to remind everyone of the date. Lately the floats have gotten more elaborate but mostly at the large city parades like Dublin, Cork, Galway, and Limerick. There are also the “performance art” groups that can be very simple to very elaborate such
as the Macnas based in Galway City.
Walking Over a Mile on Stilts ... Got to be Hard
Yes, the Pubs are packed and many of the pubs serve lunch. You’ll see extended families in the pub eating lunch. When the meal is finished, the parents will sometimes have a second pint or glass as the cousins venture outside with the older cousins in charge.
Saint Patrick’s Day is also the unofficial opening of the “ice cream season”. No matter the weather, the kids will have an ice cream, usually a soft-serve and sometimes it has a green swirl with it.
All-in-all St. Patrick's Day is one great big family gathering in Ireland!
Happy St. Patrick's Day!!
Jet Lag Jack