11 Authentic Ways to Celebrate St. Patrick's Day

Instead of playing to the tired, old, and clichéd stereotype of St. Patrick's Day being all about how much green beer one can drink, let's think about some alternative ways in which this uniquely Irish holiday can be celebrated.  Here are 11 genuinely Irish ideas I came up with.  Why 11?  Well, it's one better than 10 ... so why not 11?

I welcome your suggestions in the comments section below.  I fully realise that St. Patrick's Day has evolved into something a bit different in America (among other places), so I'm not trying to be a fuddy-duddy.  But for the sake of our purposes here, let's try to keep these as authentic as possible (i.e. let's stay away from the green-beer-drinking, wearing "Kiss Me I'm Irish" buttons, and blaring Dropkick Murphy's tracks from our car stereos).  :-)

This list is designed to provide ideas for celebrating what truly makes Irish culture unique.  If you can somehow manage to fit all 11 of these into any given 17th day of March, I'd say we would safely be able to crown you the greatest celebrant of St. Patrick's Day of all time.

 

1.  Go to a traditional Irish music session.

 

2.  Eat bacon & cabbage.

 

3.  Sign-up for an Irish language class.

 

4.  Take a sean nós dancing lesson.

 

5.  Explore some little-known facets of Irish history.

 

6.  Watch an authentic Irish film (e.g. "The Field", The Guard”, “The Secret of Roan Inish”, “Waking Ned Devine to name only a few).

 

7.  Ride a Connemara Pony.

 

8.  Cozy-up to a turf fire (or the closest thing you can find).

 

9.  Learn to knit Aran style.

 

10.  Read a piece of great Irish literature.

 

11.  Play a game of road bowling (if you can find a safe, deserted road!)

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Tags: Dance, Film, Food, Gaeilge, Irish Language, Literature, Movies, Music, Sport, St. Patrick's Day

Comment by Bryan Maloney on March 5, 2014 at 9:14am

What evidence have you on Bishop Patrick's upbringing and "environment"? What treasure of historical information that the rest of the world has never seen do you have? What is the source of the little tale you relate? From what I have studied, what can be verified is that a Romano-Briton was kidnapped to Ireland and managed to escape. He later became a Bishop and was assigned to Ireland to regularize Church administration, therein. He was not some little hermit wandering around in an oh-so-very-quaint-and-storybook fashion. He was an ordained clergyman, a hierarch, and had an administrative function very close to that of an Archbishop.

The generally accepted history is that his father was a deacon and his grandfather a priest. (The discipline of an unmarried priesthood had not yet been imposed within the Latin areas. Instead, many Latin Christians followed the Eastern practice, still carried on to to this day, of ordaining men who were married as well as the unmarried).

While it is true that formal commemoration of the feast of St. Patrick did not occur until the 17th century, he was venerated locally since at least the 7th century. Indeed, he has never been formally "canonized" according to the legalistic methods of the modern Roman Catholic Church, as have many widely-recognized saints of that era. At that time, there was no "canonization" as the West currently understands it. Instead, individuals might be locally venerated, and that veneration might spread. If it spread widely enough, a hierarch might permit the person to be added to the calendar. However, there was no formal Papal declaration of "sainthood". The Orthodox Church still follows a method closer to the older custom.

This may not be a complete collection of documents from his time or only a few centuries after that pertain to him, but I don't know of any that add any significant knowledge: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/18482/18482-h/18482-h.htm

Since they are translations of documents of the era or shortly after, they are replete with miracle tales that you might or might not want to believe, but they are pretty much all we actually have about him.

Comment by Bit Devine on March 5, 2014 at 11:45am

I don't have a secret treasure trove, Bryan... I have research... and documentation..  friends and scholars who's life work has been studying both the fact and myth that is Patrick... I have my own studies and research whilst obtaining my minor in Celtic studies...

Patrick, himself, stated both his lack of education and his lack of faith in his Confessio....

It is easier to believe the myths handed down for generations... But lest we forget...he was human, with all of the foibles that come with being human.

 

Comment by Bryan Maloney on March 5, 2014 at 11:50am

I have read his Confession, and I am also aware of similar writings from other saints, and they all denounce themselves as being ignorant and impious. It seems to be a convention of the genre and should not be taken at face value. I am not looking at "myths handed down for generations". Indeed, the "myths handed down for generations" would have us believe that he was just a simple wandering man who did miracles all day long but had nothing at all to do with boring stuff like Church administration or running an Archdiocese (or equivalent).

Comment by John W. Hurley on March 9, 2014 at 10:49am

Bryan I thought your suggestion was great and of all the things suggested as authentic and traditional by Ryan (though good), was really the only one that is actually authentic and traditional in the sense that it being a Catholic religious holiday is the oldest actual genuine St. Patrick's Day tradition in Ireland. And frankly I'm getting a bit tired of how on the Wild Geese Today when someone like yourself makes an intelligent comment (instead of the sterotypical I'm-Irish-so-aren't-I-so-funny-or-sarcastic-or-melodramatic comment) they then have to defend it when it's obvious the other person doesn't know what they're talking about. It makes me want to participate or contribute less and less. I mean what's the point really. 

Comment by Ryan O'Rourke on March 9, 2014 at 10:54am

My list of eleven, John, was for folks who don't celebrate St. Patrick's Day in a religious way.  I am a believer, but I do not single out March 17th as any sort of holy day.  As I said before, that's a choice anyone is free to make.  But this is a list intended to provide ideas for those who want to celebrate March 17th as a day of observing genuine and traditional Irish culture.

Comment by Bryan Maloney on March 9, 2014 at 11:34am

It's been my discovery that there may be no such thing as Saint Patrick. Instead, there are dozens of men who never existed until they were invented to fill some role about what the Irish are "supposed" to be. Everyone agrees that "Saint Patrick is good", but then they invent a "Saint Patrick" who simply reflects their personal prejudices of what constitutes "good". For Ultramontanist Catholics, he is a tireless functionary of the Church of Rome. For folk Catholics, he is a source of miracle tales and cute stories of symbolic piety. For Anglicans (oops, Church of Ireland), he is a proto-Anglican. For Calvinists, he is a voice of rebellion against Rome (yes, I've seen that interpretation). For nationalists, he is a great national leader. For unionists, he is an emissary from Britain who brought Ireland into civilization (never mind that Ireland already was as connected to the rest of Roman culture as any other part of Europe at that time). For a great number of "Christians vs. the world" types, he brought Christianity to benighted and pagan Ireland (never mind that Ireland already had monastaries, priests, and Bishops by that time). For the irreligious, he had no religious inclinations, and his conventionalized statement of being weak in the faith (even though shared by so many other Saints) are evidence of this. It could go on and on.

Comment by John W. Hurley on March 9, 2014 at 12:07pm

Hi Ryan. I'm not really sure if you are disagreeing with me or not. lol  You wrote: "Instead of playing to the tired, old, and clichéd stereotype of St. Patrick's Day being all about how much green beer one can drink, let's think about some alternative ways in which this uniquely Irish holiday can be celebrated...This list is designed to provide ideas for celebrating what truly makes Irish culture unique."

And that's great and like I said I thought they were all good suggestions they just are not the most traditional ways of celebrating St. Patrick's Day itself.

You also added "I welcome your suggestions in the comments section below."

To which Bryan suggested celebrating in the original, traditional Irish way of attending Mass as St. Patrick was the Patron Saint of Ireland. Now there was no mention previously that your list of eleven was for folks who don't celebrate St. Patrick's Day in the traditional religious way, so I don't see why there's anything wrong with Bryan's suggestion as it is the traditional and most authentic way of "celebrating" the Patron Saint's day or ANY say Parish Patron Saints day in Ireland, apart from doing the "Patron" around a circle of rocks AFTER the Mass or attending a Fair that usually fell on the same day. Not sure what's wrong with that or why Bit see's fit to try and correct the idea that St. Patrick, though a slave of the Irish, returned to become their religious leader. And yes I know there were several St. Patrick's and it's a dark era etc., but the main historical narrative is the same: some guy came to Ireland to convert the Irish and today we call him St. Patrick. So why the need for all the put downs and trite stories?

Ryan, you also wrote: "I am a believer, but I do not single out March 17th as any sort of holy day.  As I said before, that's a choice anyone is free to make.  But this is a list intended to provide ideas for those who want to celebrate March 17th as a day of observing genuine and traditional Irish culture."

And see that's the point. The most traditional way of celebrating St. Patrick's day was to go to Mass if anything as it was a Catholic religious holiday and has been for centuries. But now we want to make it a bland non-Catholic secular "cultural holiday" so as not to offend anyone. That's okay I guess for some who have an anti-Catholic issue (given how much Irish Catholics have been persecuted in my family toleration was always taught to non-Catholics). But if someone wants to be a Sinead O'Connor type of Irish person, don't give people a hard time just because they want to be the more traditional type of Irish person. Be tolerant of them. Or is being an Irish Catholic not even welcome on the Irish Geese Today? I'm actually beginning to wonder. Not because of you Ryan but just in general.

Comment by John W. Hurley on March 9, 2014 at 12:15pm

Yes Bryan, as always people who are not Irish try to claim Irish traditions or re-work them to fit their political agenda. That is part of why for centuries Ireland had no freedom and lost it's language. They were trying to replace the Gaelic Catholic Irish with a new (fake) Irish identity. Ireland had christians but they were not organized and some may have been heretical so "Patrick" was apparently trying to organize them on the Roman model in line with the rest of Catholic Europe. All we have are his writings and conjecture and based on his writings he was there to convert and organize on the Roman model. Which is what happened. Which was a good thing. But oddly for some that is not okay and should be ignored, revised and re-written like most other parts of Irish history.

Comment by Cynthia Neale on March 9, 2014 at 12:15pm

Dancing on tables is always a special way to celebrate! http://cynthianeale.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/dscn65391.jpg

Comment by John W. Hurley on March 9, 2014 at 12:21pm

As for my own contribution, by the 19th century St. Patrick's day was also associated with Fair Days and Faction Fighting. So it actually is an authentic tradition to go out and drink excessively and then attack the rival Tuatha/Parish/Clan with fists, stones and most importantly shillelaghs with names like Bas gan Sagart. 

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