An Irish lineage has a global allure and St Patrick's Day is a huge celebration in cities thousands of miles from the Emerald Isle. It’s estimated that the number of people claiming Irish roots around the world dwarfs the actual Irish population by about 10 to 1 and the demand for Irish passports in the UK has jumped by 50% since Britain voted for Brexit.
Whether you’re a card carrying Celt, passport Paddy or culture appropriating party animal we have put together the following guide to Irish traditions.
Music is an essential part of St Patrick’s Day and Irish culture in general. The Celts had an oral culture where religion, legend and history were passed from one generation to the next in stories and song. Certain songs also became an expression of dissension under the yoke of the English. Today, traditional irish bands and instruments such as the uilleann pipes (a sort of elaborate bagpipe), the tin whistle (a sort of flute that is actually made of nickel-silver, brass or aluminum) and the bodhran are gaining worldwide popularity.
That said, avoid playing Ed Sheeran’s Galway Girl to any Irish native as you could provoke an extended diatribe about cultural theft and the video being a hate crime against the Irish people.
It’s also traditional for people to wear a sprig of shamrock to celebrate St Patrick's Day. But what is a shamrock, what is a clover and how many leaves are we talking about?
Well a shamrock is a young white clover that grows during wintertime. Even among the Irish, there is no consensus on which specific plant is the true Irish shamrock so a few different types of clover will make an appearance on Paddy’s Day.
However, let’s be perfectly clear, the lucky four leaf clover has nothing to do with St Patrick Day. These two botanical symbols are often confused and used interchangeably but the three leaves of the shamrock are central to the St Patrick legend. The saint demonstrated the principle behind the Holy Trinity by using a shamrock, pointing to its three leaves united by a common stalk.
The Wearing of the Green
Ironically, blue was the colour originally associated with St Patrick. The introduction of the green probably originated in the USA along with lots of other Paddy’s Day traditions such as the “pinch rule” ie: if you don't wear green on Paddy’s Day you deserve a good pinch. There’s also a piece of folklore that people should wear green on St Patrick's Day to make themselves invisible to mischievous leprechauns.
The Black Stuff
The black stuff, Irish champagne, ebony nectar, or a pint of plain; our blog wouldn’t be complete without mentioning this much loved Irish institution. On St Patrick's Day, about 3 million pints of Guinness are downed in the USA alone and approx. 13 million pints worldwide. Top tips for enjoying your Paddy’s Day tipple:
- Firstly, don’t waste your time on anything that isn’t draft.
- A shamrock drawn in the foam is for amateurs.
- If the beer in your glass looks murky and brown, the Guinness is not ready. Wait, good things come to those who wait.
- Hold your arm with your elbow out so your forearm is horizontal with the glass.
- Take a gulp big enough to break through the foam and get a taste of the beer below. This will ensure your first taste of Guinness isn't too bitter.
- Consider following up with a cheeky, Irish, whiskey chaser.
Whichever way you choose to spend St Patrick's Day, celebrate in style with one of Vectorbomb’s Paddy’s Day T Shirt, Mug or Hoodie designs. They are made from pinchproof material, actually look better with a Guinness stain and you can have any colour you like (as long as it’s green).