Saint Patrick’s Day (irl. Lá ‘le Pádraig lub Lá Fhéile Pádraig) is the biggest Irish cultural and religious celebration held on 17 March (the traditional death date of Saint Patrick) accompanied by parades and festivals with traditional music and Celtic dance. Curly Trips thanks to the Mayor of London as the only travel blog has received accreditation for the third largest parade in the world after Dublin and New York. I must admit that it is an amazing feeling to be in the very center of the parade like a professional photojournalist. Of course, we can share with you the mass of pictures. But the parade is not all. This year I celebrated the Saint Patrick’s Day in special way. Read why and what fascinated me the most in this Irish holiday.
Everything started on March 16th, when I realized that I basically did not plan anything on occasion of Saint Patrick’s Day. I started browsing intensively the Internet. Unfortunately most of the more interesting events were sold out or out of reach. In fact, however, I felt like I wish to this year something more than just going out to the pub and drinking Guinness in a green hat. Suddenly my attention has attracted newly opened Center of Irish Culture in Hammersmith. I managed to buy the last ticket for a young Irish band concert.
What was my surprise when after arriving at the place I realized that the average age was 60, and the place itself looked like a rented cafeteria. There was neither a scene nor a real bar. Instead, there were cases with Guinness, green glasses and two tables imitating a bar counter. I thought to myself – this is going to be an interesting evening.
This is how it is when you buy something in London for the last moment. What to do – I thought to myself. I bought myself Guinness and took a place on the windowsill. From the reflection on life, a girl broke me up, who invited me and the rest of the guests to the second room. Suddenly, there was a scene and mass of people 20-30 years old. Of course everyone dressed in green. Some have ties, other hats or very sophisticated decorations. I should not be surprised, however, because one of the tradition of St. Patrick is wearing clothes in green. Green is the national color of Ireland, referring to the grassy landscape of the island and symbolizing the shamrock traditionally attributed to Saint Patrick.
In the chair I sat maybe 10 minutes, when an older lady pulls me to the dance floor. As soon as the band appeared, it started a real green madness. It was amazing to see the four generations of people together huddled together to the Irish music. The musicians played fast, lively tunes, people jumped to their feet to dance and making large circles as they went round and round in the Irish swings. The atmosphere of the event reminded me of a little Polish wedding, and the fact that I did not know the steps, did not bother me at all. There was a great smile on my face and the joy that I was able to take part in this local fun. The funniest thing was that everyone at first thought I was Irish because of hair color and eyes. No less positive reaction was when I said I was from Poland. It turned out that practically everyone has a Polish neighbor and that the Poles are a nice nation. All the more so I felt like a super important guest.
No wonder, at the end of the event, even Michael Kingston (Director of the Center and well-known Irish personality) introduced himself to me and at the end of the event invited to dance classes. He was very surprised to find myself here. But he was not my only new friend. I also met a nice Englishman who was interested in Irish culture after he fell in love with his Irish friend at a chess club and a neighbor lady who invited me to barbecue to meet me with his grandchildren and cousins. This 50 year old woman was probably the most energetic of all the guests and she smiled. In this way she wanted to honor the memory of her brother, whom she buried two days earlier. At the end of the event, she advised me to go to a festival in Ireland, because the Irish are very handsome and I will definitely meet the man of my dreams there, which I deserve. Is it not cute? I must admit that one of the guys I was dancing with was not too bad. What a pity he was only 6 years younger. He told me an interesting legend about the expulsion of snakes from Ireland by St. Patrick, which I have not heard before.
Thanks to this event I could not only fully feel Celtic culture, but also learn more about the celebration itself. Until now, I did not know that the symbol of the Saint Patrick’s Day, shamrock, is related to religious beliefs. The legend says that St. Patrick used it to explain first Christians the being of the Holy Trinity. Another interesting fact was discovering that during the Saint Patrick’s Day people traditionally drink whiskey, and the glass must always be filled to the full, which is related to another legend about Saint Patrick. In contrast, the tradition of drinking green beer originated outside the Ireland in the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Saint Patrick’s Day is one of the most famous celebration in the world, but do you know who he really was and where did his fame come from? Saint Patrick was born in 385 in Britain. As a 16-year-old boy he was then kidnapped to Ireland, where he was originally a shepherd. After 4 years he escaped with the mission of converting pagan Ireland. For this purpose he undertook theological studies. Already as a bishop he has been carrying out missionary activities for almost 40 years, as a result of which he has christened the central, western and northern parts of Ireland.
Tradition has also become the organization of parades as part of the celebration of the Saint Patrick’s Day as I mentioned at the beginning. In London this year the parade was on March 19th and started at 12:00 at the junction of Picadilly and Half Moon Street. Traditionally, 32 representations have taken part in it, which is how many counties are in Ireland. Among them were wheeled platforms as well as walking groups. Within each, various activities have been presented, ranging from dance teams to clubs (including London Irish Motor Club, Father Murphy’s Camogie London), schools (eg Drumagh School of Irish Dance), orchestras,) and various communities (including the Police Emerald Society, Hare Krishna).
There were also dance shows from various national minorities such as Bolivia and Mexico.
The parade route was led by Picadillian Piccadilly Circus – Lower Regent Street – Waterloo Place – Pall Mall – Cockspur, to the Whitehall building at Trafalgar Square, where the celebration center was located. On the big stage, after the series of speeches, the performances of various dance formations and ensembles took place e.g. Dublin choir, Rusangano Family, Derek Ryan & Band.
In the meantime, you could also try Irish cuisine at the market or take a free guided tour of the Irish route of London. It turns out that in London (especially around St. Paul’s Cathedral) there are many places associated with Irish history. The event ended at 18:00. Words do not describe emotions accompanying the celebration, so I invite you to look at the pictures.