The true craic of St. Patrick’s Day

Irish Association highlights the traditional roots of the celebration

Illustration by Gabrielle Funk

Decorations, parades and even beer will soon be green, as Winnipeggers celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on March 17.

St. Patrick’s is a feast day honouring the life of St. Patrick, who is known as the patron saint of Ireland, as he helped to bring Christianity to Ireland in the early 5th century. The Irish Association of Manitoba (IAM) is hosting a two-week celebration to commemorate the day.

IAM president Joseph Savage says this event is important, as his organization strives to highlight the culture and history of Ireland.

“Our aim is to provide our membership and the larger community with positive messages of who we are as Irish people, what we have done, and where we are going,” he says.

IAM’s celebrations kick off on March 7 with the St. Patrick’s Day Gala, leading up to the parade and a concert by long-running local band Celtic Way, which takes place on March 14.

Celtic band Killick performs on March 15, and the celebrations culminate in an entertainment and food-filled day on March 17 at IAM.

Although St. Patrick’s Day is recognized as a religious holiday in Ireland, it has altered over time to the point where rivers are dyed green.

It has also become the fourth most popular drinking day in the United States.

“The first St. Patrick’s Day was not in Ireland, but in New York City in 1762,” Savage says. “It was from there that St. Patrick’s Day became increasingly commercialized, as more cities found out about it. The religious side of things has also changed, as the influence of the church on Irish people has changed, just like in most places.

“It is now looked at as a general celebration, as millions gather in parades and celebrate everything Irish.”

Though this presents a unique opportunity to highlight Irish culture, Savage and IAM event co-ordinator Tara Bailey point out that there are often misrepresentations of Ireland.

“Some people like (to dress up as) a leprechaun, wearing hats and beads around your neck, and a lot of people associate St. Patrick’s Day with getting drunk, but that is not what we want to get accomplished,” Savage says. “The idea of our organization is to promote Irish culture.”

Bailey points out the association has no issue with people who dress up like this and welcomes everyone. She says they do not necessarily want to change the holiday but do want to focus more on the traditional aspects of St. Patrick’s Day.

“When you come to IAM, you are coming down for the craic, getting together and having a good time,” she says.

“Craic” is a popular slang term in Ireland, adopted from the English word “crack.” It refers to news or gossip, similar to the term “scuttlebutt.” If you want to know what a friend has been up to, simply ask, “What’s the craic?” “That’s what Irish people do. It is getting together and having a good time with your friends and family, and that is what we encourage people to do.”

Published in Volume 74, Number 20 of The Uniter (March 5, 2020)

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