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St Patrick’s Day: celebrate in your own shade of green
There will be shamrocks galore this March 17th
St Patrick’s Day is quickly approaching. The unique holiday takes on different forms from city to city, and in Brussels it’s no different. Always adapting to its diverse population, the European capital offers a variety of activities that allow each individual to cherish the luck of the Irish in their own special way.
To help you find your own Irish pot of gold this year, The Bulletin will review how you can make the most of this St Patrick’s weekend in Brussels or elsewhere.
Lá Fhéile Pádraig
While most of us think of leprechauns, green-coloured beer and shamrock-covered clothing when it comes to St Patrick's, its ancient origins are actually much different. In Irish folklore, Lá Fhéile Pádraig (St Patrick’s in Irish) commemorates the Saint Patrick who brought Christianity to Ireland with the help of the shamrock to explain the holy trinity. For the old Irish, Paddy’s Day was a spiritual day: attending mass and having a feast amid Lent fasting. It also served as a mid-March reminder for Irish farmers to begin planting their potato crops.
Today, St Patrick’s remains for the Irish a holiday of shamrocks and feasting with family, not (necessarily) an excuse to get decked out in green and go to the pub. In fact, according to Bridget Haggerty’s article on Irish customs, wearing too much green could attract fairies: “green was their favourite colour and they'd spirit away any child fully garbed in green.”
Pick a colour
Still, in our globalised world, Paddy’s Day has transformed from a national holiday to a worldwide celebration. That is why in Belgium, one can choose from a wide array of St Patrick’s celebrations varying in tradition, colour coding and intensity.
Probably the most popular way to celebrate St Patrick’s world round is in an Irish Pub. Perhaps this is because the concept is so simple: Irish, Belgians and expats alike can all find common ground for celebration around a pint of Guinness. While the list of Irish pubs in Belgium is as rich as a Guinness itself, The Bulletin recommends De Valera’s located in Brussels’ Place Flagey for a Music Evening this Friday to kick-off the weekend.
Looking for a St Patrick's celebration with some pot-of-gold glam? Then sign up for the St Patrick’s Day Ball this Saturday. Organised by the Irish Club of Belgium, this glitzy, strictly black-tie evening begins with a champagne reception at 19.00, followed up by traditional Irish music and dance entertainment with the Damhsa troupe. You’ll then have the chance to do your own Irish jig with the help of DJ Peter Cluts until 4 in the mornin’.
While this combination of Irish folklore and glamour comes at a price (€80-€95 per person), equally fabulous prizes – among them round-ticket trips to Canada, Croatia and Slovenia – are to be won throughout the night to compensate.
Those seeking a Paddy’s Day event just as rich in tradition but aimed more at an Irish potato farmer’s budget, the Belgium GAA hurling club and FC Irlande football team are organising a free St Patrick's Day Festival in Brussels’ Parc Cinquantenaire this Sunday. The festival programme features the best Ireland has to offer, from Gaelic sports and children's games, to Irish food, music, dancing and – of course – drinks. Finally, don’t miss the festival’s crowning four-leaf clover: a traditional St Patrick's parade assembling at 13.00.
Another option is to celebrate St Patrick's with a Belgian twist. One way of doing this is by paying a visit to the infamous Manneken Pis on Sunday from 17.30 to 18.00 or Monday from 13.00 to 18.00 when he will be sporting Irish colours.
In past years the little Belgian statuette was also rumoured to “pee” Guinness and offer a glass to its spectators. While Manneken Pis may not be the bartender this time around, Guinness is nonetheless offering to pay your first round this St Patrick's weekend (given you agree to spread the news via Facebook). That deserves a raise of the glass to both Belgian santé and Irish sláinte!
Finally, for those wanting a subtler, stay-at-home version of St Patrick’s, the colour to keep in mind is black, not green. BBC Good Food proposes a variety of delicious traditional Irish recipes, and due to their Guinness content, many of the dishes are in fact black: like black velvet baby cakes or black velvet campagne. Still, no Irish supper is complete without a good stew and Irish soda bread. Go raibh an bia blasta (bon appetit in Irish)!
Photos courtesy of Guinness, Damhsa, City of Brussels and Flickr/Cobalt123