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WASN’T THAT A PARTY?: Ireland celebrates St. Patrick’s Day, live

St. Patrick’s Day is like Christmas for Tourism Ireland – the gift that keeps on giving, as the Irish – and those who’d like to be – celebrate the rich culture of the Emerald Isle, most notably on this day it’s music and drink. Or as the Irish Rovers once sang, “Wasn’t that a party?”

Today (March 17), close to 800,000 people are expected to pass through Dublin airport alone on the national holiday as the country returns to in-person events, including St. Patrick’s Day parades, after a two-year break due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Millions more will celebrate around the world, in local pubs or simply by wearing a wee bit of green to the office or around the house.

To that end Tourism Ireland is launching a distinctive new music festival as part of its global celebrations today with the digital Green Button Festival designed to connect those “who can’t be in Ireland personally” with some of country’s best-loved and up-and-coming musicians.

The Green Button Festival is an invitation to celebrate Irish heritage, Irish tradition, and Ireland’s national day in a new and exciting way, says Tourism Ireland.

The unique festival can be viewed on St Patrick’s Day via Ireland.com with social media users able to look out for QR codes and ‘scan for music’ promos on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter that will lead them to the festival on their phones.

Festival-goers will be treated to an array of Irish and Northern Irish musicians playing to people around the world, amongst them the Hothouse Flowers performing at Temple Bar in Dublin, Clannad and Denise Chaila in County Donegal, Ailbhe Reddy at Dublin Castle and The Pale playing on top of the Tower Museum in Derry/Londonderry.

Ryan McMullan will be among several acts appearing from the Oh Yeah Music Centre in Belfast, which was named a UNESCO City of Music late last year.

The festival includes interactive digital billboards that will be set up New York, London, Milan, and Sydney, which will let passer-by interact with the screen and bring performances to life on the spot using their smartphones.

“This outstanding music festival will connect people all around the world with some of Ireland’s best musicians, says festival producer Martin Harte.

Canada

In Toronto, the Irish Tourist Board welcomed friends late last week to a comparatively low-key (but lots of fun) pre-St. Pat’s celebration at Noonan’s pub on the Danforth, complete with Irish band, traditional dancers, and whiskey and gin tasting.

Canadian manager Sandra Moffatt noted that 4.5 million Canadians have Irish ancestry and that with COVID restrictions now dropped in Ireland and the return to in-person events symbolized by the St. Patrick’s Day parade and celebrations again in Dublin, that Ireland was “rolling out the carpet” for Canadian visitors this summer.

To that end, she welcomed the announcement of significant air lift returning from Canadian carriers like Air Canada and WestJet, the former including service from Vancouver and Montreal starting in June.

Indeed, there will 34 routes from five Canadian gateways, with Moffatt declaring, “It’s a clear sign that international travel is back.”

5 FACTS ABOUT ST. PATRICK’S DAY

As one of the most popular cultural events on the planet, St Patrick’s Day is celebrated by millions every year. Yet the enigmatic and larger-than-life figure behind the annual Irish extravaganza is shrouded in mystery, with much of what is known about the ‘Apostle of Ireland’ interwoven with myth and legend. Here are some startling and quirky ‘did you know’ facts behind the folklore surrounding St. Patrick:

Patrick wasn’t Irish

Yes, it’s true, Patrick is thought to have originally come from either Wales or Scotland, where he was abducted at the age of 16 and brought to what is now Northern Ireland as a slave. He was sent to Slemish Mountain in County Antrim – still a popular pilgrimage spot to this day – to herd sheep. But after his escape he had a vision which prompted him to return to Ireland to spread the word of Christianity. Patrick remained in Ireland for the rest of his life, preaching, baptising, and founding schools, churches, and monasteries before his death in County Down, on 17 March, AD 461.

He ain’t a saint

It’s hard to believe, but the man behind Ireland’s national day is technically not a saint. Surprisingly, Patrick was never officially canonised as a saint by the Catholic Church. However, the lack of official sainthood is simply because there was no formal canonisation process in the 400s. In Patrick’s time saints were declared by popular acclamation. Calling him ‘St Patrick’ is likely to have caught on over time because of his obvious talents, gifts, and holiness.

The first St Patrick’s Day parade

It’s actually the big centres of Irish immigration in Boston (1737) and New York (1762) that have the longest laid claims to holding the first St Patrick’s Day parade, though recent research has suggested that St. Augustine, Fla., had one in 1601. This is long before they started in Ireland itself – the first parade in the country was held in Waterford in 1903, while Dublin joined the club back in 1931.

St Patrick’s colour is actually blue

Before green came on the scene, blue was the colour associated with St Patrick. The earliest depictions of Ireland’s patron saint show him clothed in blue garments, not green, and in fact when George III created a new order of chivalry for the Kingdom of Ireland in 1783 its official colour was a sky blue known as ‘St Patrick’s Blue. It’s thought that the shift to green happened over time because of Ireland’s nickname – the Emerald Isle, as well as the green in the Irish flag, the shamrock, and the idea of the country’s 40 shades of lush green fields. Things like the wearing of green and the more recent global greening of landmark buildings around the world, evolved over time.

Snakes, what snakes?

Among the many legends associated with St Patrick is that he stood on top a hillside and delivered a sermon that drove Ireland’s serpents into the sea. It’s true the island is snake-free, but in fact the story is likely an allegory for Patrick eradicating paganism on the island. Research suggests snakes were never resident in the Emerald Isle in the first place. There are no signs of snakes in the country’s fossil record and water has surrounded Ireland since the last glacial period. Before that, the region was covered in ice and would have been too cold even for reptiles.

For a Green Button Festival teaser:

First published at Travel Industry Today

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