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  • Daniel Boutilier

St. Paddy’s Day: A How-To Guide

It looks like we still have a few more weeks until Spring arrive in earnest, but this weekend – as it does every year – will bring with it a sea of green, at least inside residence rooms and local Sydney watering holes. Green beer, green clothing, and this year for the first time – legal ‘green’ as well. St. Patrick’s Day has been popularized across North American campuses as a day of excessive boozing, block parties, and sing-a-longs of gradually declining quality; but how does this image match up with real Irish traditions?

First off let’s consider the man himself. Saint Patrick’s history is the matter of some conjecture, but a few facts are generally agreed on; it may surprise you to find out, for instance, that Patrick was Roman British and not actually born in Ireland. The story goes that our Saint was enslaved in Britain and brought to Ireland. After escaping captivity and making it back to his native Britain, St. Patrick, having found God during his time of tribulation, returned to Ireland and had great success in converting the pagan population to Christianity. The allegorical ‘driving of the snakes’ from Ireland credited to St. Patrick refers to the population of druids whose religious practices prevailed in the area prior to Christianity arriving on the scene.

So why celebrate St. Patrick’s day?

If we’re honest with ourselves, most of us don’t have a very legitimate reason to. That being said, over the years the religious holiday has evolved into a general celebration of all things Irish – so whether it’s the music, the traditions, or yes, the Guinness – most of us have some reason to comb through out wardrobes for the greenest outfit we can find. If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve got a few suggestions about how you can make the most out of your St. Paddy’s Day this year.

What should I drink?

The short answer – anything you want, responsibly. But if you’re looking to commune with your Irish ancestors, you can’t go wrong with a Guinness or Irish whiskey (note the ‘e’). Pick up a bottle of Jameson to bring to the party or, if you’re looking for some variety, check out NSLC’s Irish Heritage Pack to sample a few traditional beers with your friends.

If you find yourself falling asleep after a couple Guinness, feel free to make a coffee sweetened with Bailey’s Irish Cream, or if you’re simply looking for something sweet skip the coffee and drink it over the rocks. The dangerous ‘Irish Car Bomb’ combines all of these traditional drinks into one chuggable beverage, but our advice is to leave them alone if you plan on making it to class anytime Monday; some, quite understandably, find the name offensive, owing to the very real history of car bombs in Ireland – so if you decide to indulge, try asking for an Irish Bomb or an Irish Slammer, alternative names for the festive beverage.

Where should I go?

Wherever your friends are, but don’t be shy! People tend to embrace the community spirit on St. Patrick’s Day and, perhaps owing to their liquid diet, may be friendlier than usual. You may consider making your way to The Old Triangle Irish Alehouse in Sydney, but don’t expect to find a seat unless you’re there early in the morning. That being said, just about anywhere with pub or bar in the name will be a little more exciting than usual – especially when you consider that St. Patrick’s falls on a Sunday this year. Don’t forget to be safe and take the precautions you usually would for a night on the town.

Patrons of the Halifax location of The Old Triangle line up as early as 4:30AM in anticipation of the special 7AM opening in 2017. (Global News)

What should I listen to?

There are countless playlists dedicated St. Patrick’s Day which range from traditional fiddle music and jigs to more modern hits. U2’s ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ will be sure to make an appearance, probably ‘Zombie’ by the Cranberries, ‘Dirty Old Town’ by The Pogues, and of course ‘Shipping Up to Boston’ by The Dropkick Murphy’s, which you’ll already know if you’ve watched any televised sporting event in the last decade. Some local favourites that you are guaranteed to hear are ‘Barrett’s Privateers’ by Stan Rogers, and ‘The Night Pat Murphy Died’ by Great Big Sea – it’s probably too late for you to memorize the whole thing, but you’re definitely going to want to know the chorus. Make the effort but don’t worry if you have to learn on the fly, there’s sure to be enough people singing (see: yelling) that you nobody will notice any slip-ups.

What should I watch?

‘The Departed’, starring Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio, tops many people’s lists for St. Patrick’s Day rewatching. While the story doesn’t stray far outside typical cop-gangster story arcs, the star-studded cast, score, and plot-advancing action make this blockbuster a worthwhile diversion.

The film ’71, set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles (also referred to as the Northern Ireland conflict) follows a British soldier who’s separated from his unit on the streets of Belfast. The enormous physical tension of the film is palpable throughout, the performances subtle and engrossing, and the subject matter handled appropriately – ’71 may act as a jumping off point for you to learn more about the rich and tumultuous history of Ireland.

Brendan Gleeson as Gerry Boyle in ‘The Guard’. (Rogert Ebert)

St. Patrick’s Day remains a celebration, and nothing gets people into a celebratory mood like laughter. Brendan Gleeson’s vehicle ‘The Guard,’ directed by John Michael McDonagh, is nominally a thriller – but it’s actually one of the funniest black comedies of the 21st century to date. You might recognize Gleeson as Alastor Moody in the popular Harry Potter series, but he shines here as the witty, deadpan, debaucherous Irish cop Gerry Boyle. If there’s one film you watch this weekend – make it The Guard.

And if you’re short on time but still want a laugh, maybe check out some themed episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Or any episode really, the setting of the show is a bar called Paddy’s Irish Pub after all – check out a clip here:

How do I say cheers on St. Patrick’s Day?

Sláinte! (slawn-che) A Gaelic word which translates to ‘health’ in English and is a traditional toast in Ireland and Scotland.

Which brings us to our final point … St. Patrick’s Day, St. Paddy’s Day, maybe even St. Pat’s. But never St. Patty’s!!!

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