Monday, March 17, 2014

All Things Irish: Day 5 - HAPPY ST. PADDY'S DAY!!!

Beannachtai na Feile Padraig! Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all my readers! The céilí (celebration or “social gathering”) is here! I hope you’re wearing green. If not, here’s a virtual pinch for you. Take it or leave it ;)

Today’s All Things Irish post will be a dual article about the music of Ireland, which I hope will get you in the St. Paddy’s holiday spirit. I’ll also delve into the history of St. Patrick’s Day and what it means beyond wearing green and downing the traditional green pint.

Ah, the Celts and their music. Yesterday we talked about how lyrical the Irish tend to be, particularly when you take a look at their authors and poets, past and present. The Irish literary history spans back further than most Europeans’. The same can be said for their music. Not only do they have a flair for it; there are several instruments that are Celtic in root. The bagpipes, of course, are the most obvious of these. I find the bagpipes fascinating both for the unique sound they make that calls to my deep Celtic roots and because they one of the few instruments throughout the world that are played without pause. Talk about your strong abdominals….

Interesting note: it is a preference of Irish pipers to use the Uilleann Pipes, which have a small bellows.
Another instrument you might not know of that has roots in Celtic history is the bodhran. This is a round, percussion instrument covered in goat skin. Those who played the bodhran usually tapped with a beater (stick) with the right hand while using the left hand to touch or graze the back of the case. Touching separate parts of the case creates different percussive sounds, from hollow to sharp.  
While the Greeks were known for their guitars, the Irish have their own version: the bouzouki. While most acoustic guitars have six strings, the bouzouki only has four. It is tuned differently, mostly due to the its body which is more deeply rounded.

Other and more well-known instruments with Celtic roots include the harp (one of the famous symbols of Ireland), the banjo, the fiddle, the accordion/melodion (or “squeeze-box”), the flute, and the tin whistle. Get two or three of these instruments and their players together and you’ll have yourselves a proper Irish seisiún (music session)!

The Irish music we recognize today is the traditional sort – the drinking songs, the ballads and laments. The reels and jigs are toe-tapping enough to make just about anyone attempt a stepdance. Traditional Irish singing in and of itself is unique. Singers perform accompanied and unaccompanied, but some even sing in the old style, or “sean-nós.”
Has all this music put you in a fine St. Paddy’s Day mood? Good! Now let’s talk about the meaning of this very Irish holiday….
A few years back I delved into the history of my favorite holiday of the year, St. Valentine’s Day. Being that St. Patrick’s Day is my second-favorite, I’ve been hankering to do something similar for March 17th for some time now. Finally this year, I did my research. My Irish blood is ashamed it took me this long.
St. Patrick’s Day takes place during Lent on the anniversary of St. Patrick’s death (March 17, 461). It is the feast day of St. Patrick. People have been observing St. Patrick’s Day for over 1,000 years. After spending a morning in church, observers then spend an afternoon and evening drinking, dancing, and eating a fine St. Patrick’s Day feast. (Bacon and cabbage are the foods you’ll most likely find on an Irish table on March 17th.)
St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated around the world. On this day, everybody is Irish, as the saying goes. Aside from Ireland, the United States in particular is known for its St. Paddy’s Day celebrations. New York and Boston celebrate in the grandest Irish tradition. Chicago dyes its river green for the day. The nations of Canada and Australia are also known for their St. Patrick’s Day festivities. At home in Ireland, a whopping one million people descend on the city of Dublin for the St. Patrick Festival.
Though St. Patrick’s Day has come to be associated with all things Irish, it goes back to one man, a patron saint, who was kidnapped and brought to Ireland at the age of sixteen. St. Patrick is credited for bringing Christianity to Ireland and spreading it throughout. He became a national apostle of Ireland and the myth and legend that grew around the events of his life can be found in most aspects of Irish culture.

For more fun facts about St. Patrick’s Day and more on the history of St. Patrick himself, visit!

Thank you so much for taking part in five days of All Things Irish, Cozies! I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself and maybe learned a few fun facts to take back to your friends and family. Spreading the St. Paddy’s cheer far and wide today! I’m off to cook my family’s traditional Irish feast. Slainte! Go n-éirí on bóthar leat!

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