St. Patricks day this year was a big one for Ireland, because not only was it on a Saturday, but it was also the day of the big rugby match against England for the Six Nations. We had friends over from Texas, with their daughter, so we were looking for some family friendly stuff to do. Plus, both our girls were toddlers, so nap times needed to be followed.
So we chose to check out Kilkenny for my first Irish St. Patrick’s day. It was listed number 5 for best parades in Irealnd, with Dublin, Galway, Cork, Limerick being before it. Nearly every village has a parade, no matter the size. A lot of these will have tractors going down the street followed by soccer clubs and what not.
Yvonne had the brilliant idea to park at Langtons hotel, which was on the parade route but had one way escape route directly out of the city, which would be closed once the parade started. An additional bonus was setting up lunch reservations for 12:15 with the Parade starting at 1.
We warmed up with some Irish Dancing at the mall. I was expecting a big show, but it turned out to be some of the local schools. It was not the greatest set up, shoving the stage in the back corner so only the parents could see. That did not stop us from getting a choice spot and watching young musicians playing the flute, guitar, and of course the Irish dancing. The finale was wonderful, with all the girls, ranging from 8 to 16, dancing the finale. It started with a thunderous bang as all the girls slammed their feet down in unison. It got our attention. Then with a whirling of the feet they were tap taping away. Irish dancers forget that they have arms at all, so its all in their feet.
After lunch we camped out at Langtons Hotel for the parade. I was not sure what I was expecting, but it was not what we got. I wrote in a previous blog how the Irish don’t see the holiday the same as Americans do. For us, St. Patrick’s day is filled with green; coats, hats, and beer. Everything green. And its about drinking, heavy, heavy drinking. In Ireland it was not even legal to drink till the 1970s. It’s a family day, where they all get together and see a parade together. Sure there is drinking but that’s not what its about at all.
Kilkenny being a really creative place; with theater, dance, and a Oscar nominated animation studio called Cartoon Saloon, I thought there would be amazing floats and dance performances. In the end, there were very few floats, one or two tops. What you did have is just about every community group, dance group, karate, cultural, and ethnic group marching down the street. In between these groups, there were old cars, some classic, some not so classic. My favorite by far was the Ford Probe. I realized I truly am old because that was a car I drove in high school.
The theme was a walk through history, and the finale had a selection of dancers, acrobats, and costume players showing the different periods, ending in a futuristic war helicopter with asteroids music playing. It did not make a lot of sense but it was fun just he same.
In the end, it was a lovely family day, which is what its meant to be and a celebration of all the things that tie the community together.
During naptime I watched a bit of the rugby match. Not a fan of rugby, to be honest, don’t really understand it. Seems like the ball should be down, then its flipped back wards and it all goes crazy again. But this was the finale, and everyone was stoked about it. When Ireland won, the entire country let out a Yahooo! I popped into the pub to make fun of my English friend Sean. Later that night I kept hearing that the game was about Ireland overthrowing 800 years of English oppression. So this was some serious stuff going on.
That night we got a baby sitter and headed out into the village. There was an amzing thing happening, SNOW! Unbelievable. Ireland had not had this much snow since the 80s. I was excited because for the first time, there was trad music playing. There is not much that goes on, so it is exciting when it does. We were at Meaneys bar, which is a modernized, 19 something club with a traditional lounge. The main bar reminds me of barnstormers for any of my high school friends who are reading still. Not a place I normally would hang at, but with trad music going on in the lounge it was a blast. They had about 10 musicians playing, and they all had guiness’s in front of them. You could tell they were winding down, but they kept it going. Every so often the bar would go quiet, as some would break out in song. Well usually it would go silent, there would always be some people in a heated debate who would get “shhhh” by the crowd.
We ended the night at Brennans, the magical store/bar. There we got one last round while chatting with Christie, who would use his electronic wheel chair in the snowstorm to get him out for one last pint.
All I can say is it was wonderful to have such perfect St Patrick’s day, and to celebrate it with friends and family. Nothing could be better, except St. Patrick’s Snow Angel perhaps?