Events in Ireland
The Irish are renowned for their seemingly innate knowledge of how to throw a party and they only need the slightest of excuses. Ireland offers something all year round, Seamus O'Murchu outlines some of the events and festivals throughout the country.
One of the things that makes Ireland such a great place to visit is that the Irish certainly know how to have a good time. So much so that they even have their own name for it, with the word ‘craic'. Despite or perhaps because of Ireland's history of poverty and oppression, the Irish have always known how to look on the bright side of life and enjoy every moment.
Throughout the country the Irish calendar is filled with these moments to enjoy, from national feast days, to regional festivals and small rural celebrations, from the extravagant to the bizarre, from quaffing oysters in Galway to crowning goats in Killorglin. Whether you're in one of the cities of Dublin, Cork or Belfast or just driving out in the country you could easily find yourself running into a festival of some sorts, so here is a brief overview of Ireland's annual events.
Ireland's cultural year begins in earnest on the 17th March, when the whole country goes green for Saint Patrick's Day, the feast day ofIreland's Patron Saint. Saint Patrick's Day is a national holiday in Ireland and each city and town holds parades and carnivals of all sizes, Dublin's Saint Patrick's Day Parade is the biggest, but even in the smallest towns and villages there will be something going on and people celebrating by painting the town, well green!
Throughout spring you'll find a number of events from specialist national programmes such as the Punchestown National Hunt Festival, one of the most important meetings in the Horse Racing calendar and the Irish National Surfing Championships to low key local affairs like the Bantry Bay Mussel Fair, celebrating West Cork's mussel harvest with music, mussels and Guinness. Spring is also Feis time - the old Irish word for Festival, when across the country school children perform traditional Irish songs and dances, but for the more advanced level stuff, the Fleadh Nua in Ennis is famed for its showcase of talented traditional Irish musicians.
Summertime is when Ireland really comes to life, particularly in the countryside, when people come from all over Ireland and the world to escape from the hustle of the city and enjoy a slower pace of life. Around the coasts you'll find regattas and sailing competitions in almost every little port town and you certainly don't have to sail to celebrate! While in rural areas you'll find country fetes and festivals of all kinds.
Some of Ireland best and most renowned festivals fall in the summer season. On 16th June, Dubliners celebrate Bloomsday a day commemorating James' Joyce's archetypal novel Ulysses, with street theatre acting out scenes from the book outlining a day in the life of the chief character Leopold Bloom. In Kilkenny in June you'll come across the best comedy festival in Ireland with the Cat Laughs, gathering international acts and audiences alike. In August the nation's attention is on Ireland's biggest beauty festival the Rose of Tralee, with a five-day festival of music and events in the County town of Kerry. From the 10th to the 12th of August, Tralee's smaller neighbouring town Killorglin, host one of Ireland's oldest and strangest festivals; Puck Fair. The festival sees the crowning of a goat as king of the town as the townsfolk parade around their King Puck, trade horses and enjoy the ‘craic agus ceol' for three days non-stop. In County Clare, you'll find the world famous Lisdoonvarna Match Making Festival where wealthy Americans come to find a local lovely - or is that the other way around?!
In Autumn the sporting season of Ireland's traditional games of Hurling and Football come to a spectacular end, with the all Ireland finals pitting two of the best counties together at Croke Park in Dublin. And more often than not Co. Kerry winning the football trophy! One of the biggest events at this time of the year is the Galway International Oyster Festival where the crowds gather to consume the fruits of some of Ireland's finest oyster beds and wash them down with a fair few pints of Guinness.
The winter time sees Ireland quietening down, the nights grow longer and colder, the fire's glow and the best thing to drink is a hot whiskey! This time is well out of the traditional tourist season and for that reason is often when you'll see a more authentic Ireland. Christmas time is very family orientated in Ireland and each town is lit up with decorations. Christmas Day is a public holiday and you'll find everywhere closed, though the following day St Stephen's Day, the pubs are open and full, and New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are as lively as you'd expect. The Christmas season closes with a day for the ladies, Nollaig na mBan or ‘Women's Little Christmas' Ireland's own 12th Day Celebration and a day where traditionally women relax after the chores of Christmas and let their hair down, while the men have to do all the house work.
Check out the 1 2 Travel web site for an extensive guide to what's on in Ireland.
until this time next month...
Conor B & Seamus.