This year, our volunteers had the chance to join the St. Patrick celebration in Sligo! It was a special occasion for them to discover Irish culture, participate in the famous parade, enjoy folk and Irish music, and be at a fantastic concert.

The history behind the myth

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated by Irish people annually on March 17, the anniversary of Saint Patrick’s (2) death in the fifth century (c.385 – c. 461) (1). Gaelic: “Lá Fhéile Pádraig” English “the Day of the Festival of Patrick” is a cultural and religious celebration held on 17 March (2) and has been observed as a religious holiday for over 1000 years.

Saint Patrick was born in Roman Britain and lived during the fifth century (1). He is the patron saint of Ireland and it’s national apostle (1). His father was a deacon, and his grandfather was a priest in the Christian church (2). At the age of sixteen he was captured by Irish raiders and sent to Slemish Mountain in Country Antrim as a slave (5). The History behind the Saint says that he found God during the time that he was kidnapped and was tended sheep on this place before escaping home, where he had a vision telling him to return to Ireland and spread the message of Christianity.

We can say that his heritage in Ireland is the Christian religion and in fact, there are some iconic sculptures like Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary to the breath-taking peak of County Mayo’s Croagh Patrick (5) or tiny Saul Church, built on the site of Patrick’s first church in Ireland (5)

The mythology surrounding his life became ever more ingrained in the Irish culture: The most well-known legend of St. Patrick is that he explained the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) using the three leaves of a native Irish clover, the shamrock. (1)

The activities in special national day

Celebrations often included parades and public festivals, traditional Irish music sessions (céilithe) and the wearing of green attire or shamrocks. (2) Often they would wear homemade St Patrick’s Day badges or pin a handful of shamrocks to their lapels and go out to mass to sing “hail glorious St. Patrick” (3). Traditionally, Irish families go to church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. (1) Lenten prohibitions against eating meat were not enforced at the Festival and people danced, drank, and feasted.(1)

Corned beef and cabbage are the traditional Irish meal and is often eaten for St. Patrick’s Day. Traditional Irish music in the background and family reunion are Irish St. Patrick’s Day traditions for centuries. (4)

Today’s Irish people dress in green and wear festival badges or hats, as do participants in parades in all cities of Ireland (4). Additionally, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations have been heavily influenced by those that developed among the Irish diaspora, especially in North America. (2) For example, the city of Chicago decided to dye part of the Chicago River green in 1952(5).

GEAI Volunteers on Saint Patrick’s Day

We were planning to go to Galway, because it has a huge parade for Saint Patrick’s Day, but we had some Covid situation and then we decide to cancel the initial plan. The day before Saint Patrick’s Day, we decided to go to Sligo, because we heard that there would be an Important parade and a lot of live music sessions.

When we arrived in Sligo we saw many people wearing green clothes, green wigs, or Irish flags. We had coffee and then we went on the street and attended the parade. It was brilliant! The most remarkable thing was the participation of local associations, schools, musicians, firemen, gardaí, etc. They wanted to celebrate their national day participating in the parade.

After a while we decided to take some pints in a traditional pub, but while we were looking for that, we saw a concert with many people and pubs involved. We paid €5 for the entrance and then went to a pub to take pints and glasses of wine together. Then Janice, a GEAI director, arrived and joined with us to celebrate.

After that, we went to “Lillie’s”, a traditional pub, to listen to music and have some more. It was grand! The music was live and to our delight, we saw a woman doing “Sean Nós” (old style) dancing!

At dinnertime we found a table in an Italian restaurant in front of the concert. Then we came back to the concert until 10 p.m. Finally, we decided to find some modern music at a Disco near the concert. There we danced a lot and had very good time all together.

A fun-filled and most enjoyable day and a great introduction to Irish culture!

By: Daniela Estefania Gil Gamboa

References (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)