Sadly I was too busy on the day to take lots of photos like I usually do, but I thought I would share the few I did take anyway. For a full review of the day, check out THIS POST.
Each day this week on the Irish Times website, members of Irish communities around the world will be sharing plans for St Patrick’s Day where they live. Today, I had the opportunity to share my experiences in South Korea and to write about Seoul’s 14th St Patrick’s Day festival, taking place this weekend.
To read the article on the Irish Times website, click here.
Back home in Ireland, preparation for St Patrick’s Day does not involve too much planning, aside from stocking up the fridge, planning crazy green outfits with friends and deciding how early is too early to start the festivities. This year, all that changed for me.
On arrival in South Korea last July, I was asked to join the Irish Association of Korea (IAK), a not-for-profit organisation which promotes Irish culture in Korea. As well as hosting events for the Irish community, it also provides the opportunity for Koreans and other expats to experience and learn more about Irish life. The main event of the year is the St Patrick’s Day Festival in Seoul, now in its 14th year, with up to 10,000 spectators showing up on the day.
Being a part of this active and engaging organisation has given me incredible behind-the-scenes experience of what it takes to plan a St Patricks’s Day Festival abroad. It takes months of hard work by an extremely dedicated team of people. Over the last few months, much of the committee members’ free time has been tied up at meetings, fundraising events and sponsorship talks. I could never have imagined how much time and effort goes into organising one day of craic agus ceoil until I was involved myself.
Now that all the ground work has been done – sponsorship secured, a perfect venue located, great musicians, experienced Irish dancers, story-tellers and local volunteers recruited – we are all very excited for the event to begin.
The festival here Seoul is known for the keen participation from members of both the Irish and Korean community, and this year will not disappoint with traditional folk dancers and musicians playing Irish music, both traditional and popular rock, coming from all over Korea to perform.
Musicians from Ireland will also feature heavily on the bill and the festival will offer an opportunity for the public to get involved, with traditional ceili-dancing, which has grown in popularity every year, taking place at the main stage. There will be face painting and story telling for children.
No festival promoting Ireland and Irish culture would be complete without the GAA present and thus a display of Gaelic football will be hosted by the one of the most successful teams in Asia, the Seoul Gaels Gaelic football team. The Seoul Gaels will also be using this opportunity to seek new recruits for their upcoming season, which starts in April.
The Seoul St Patrick’s Day Festival is the perfect opportunity for people living in Korea to experience Irish culture and get a feel for the wonderful array of Irish talent living here. March 17th is a day when we all think of Ireland and its rich history. To be able to celebrate that here in South Korea shows the extraordinary power of the Irish abroad and I am very proud to be a part of such a great expat community.
In line with my Irish patriotism this week, and declaring war on anyone stupid enough to refer to St Patrick as ‘st patty’, I am dedicating this post to the little (but awesome) nation of Ireland. So here is a list of things you may have thought were Irish but aren’t and things you may not have thought were Irish but are!! Confused yet? You will be!
10. Saint Patrick was neither a Saint nor Irish!
Many people are completely oblivious to why Irish people all over the world celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Why do over 2 MILLION people show up to watch the parade in New york City, why they go as far as dying the river GREEN in Chicago and why 100,000’s of people in Ireland hold a week-long festival around this time every year. Well it is all in the name of Saint Patrick…despite that NOT being his real name and him not been born in Ireland. So now every year we get polluted drunk, dress up like leprechaun with lucky charms dangling for all and sundry to see, dancing around in circles praising some Welsh man who apparently rid Ireland of snakes. Crazy, right?!
9. Potatoes are NOT from Ireland
So turns out St Patrick is no more Irish than potatoes. Which, FYI, originally grew in Chile as far back as 500 BC and only arrived in Ireland as late as the 16th Century. Crazy..I KNOW! On the subject of potatoes, or spuds as we call them back home, people in Uganda have a special name they call mashed potatoes and I didn’t believe it until I visited for myself. In Uganda, if you want some mash with your dinner you must order some “Irish”.
8. U2 isn’t even Irish!
Well not all of them anyway. In fact not only is half the band NOT Irish but they hail from a land Ireland believes to be it’s enemy…they hail from…ENGLAND!! Both The Edge and Adam Clayton were born in London and Oxfordshire to Welsh and English parents respectively. Only Bono and Larry Mullen are Irish true and true!
7. There is a place in Ireland called MUFF.
And as ridiculous as it is for a Journalist to start a sentence with “and”, it is also ridiculous that there is, you guessed it, a diving centre located in this lovely little town in North Donegal, the ever popular ‘Muff Diving Centre’. There is also a “Muff Hair Dresser”, should you feel the need for a trim. You could always take a trip town to the quaint little town of Nobber in Co. Meath or Sally’s Gap in Co. Kerry if you get bored.
6. It is illegal to drink on the streets in Ireland!
Everyone imagines Irish people stumbling around the streets of Dublin, pint in hand singing to our hearts content. The reality is a little sobering. Drinking on the street or anywhere outside of a licensed premise is in fact illegal in Ireland. Pubs/ bars / clubs etc are all closed by 2.30am, what could be one of the earliest closing times out of all cities in Europe! Ok it may be one of the most ignored rules in the history of any legal system and if it were to be enforced half the population would be thrown in cells each weekend, would it is technically illegal!
5. Everyone wants to be Irish!
This isn’t some light-hearted joke, “har har har sure everybody wants to be Irish on St Patrick’s day!”. No! This is a fact. How is it that while the population of Ireland, which is a tiny Island really, is only 5 million (and decreasing every day) yet over 80 MILLION people worldwide claim Irish ancestry and hold Irish passports or dual citizenship?! That is a WHOLE lot of people “claiming” to be Irish! Wannabes.
4. Guinness ISN’T that popular in Ireland!
Granted the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin is the most popular tourist attraction in Ireland and Guinness had been around now for OVER 250 years, but I’m sorry to say the drink itself is far from popular. Old men in small quiet pubs can be seeing drinking it day in day out. Some Younger guys and a sprinkle of girls perhaps but that’s about it. Yes Tourists love it, or at least claim to! But the fact remains that MORE GUINNESS is sold each year in NIGERIA than in all of Ireland! Now THAT is crazy!
3. Saint Valentine’s ashes are in Ireland
We may not have St. Patrick, but we do have Saint Valentine! The remains of St Valentine, the Patron Saint of Love and Lovers, are held in the Whitefriars Street Carmelite Church in Dublin. They were discovered in the early 1800s in Rome and some three decades later were given to a Dublin priest by Pope Gregory XVI. After nearly a century in storage, the relics were rediscovered about 50 years ago and are now housed in a shrine at the church, beneath a statue of the saint holding a crocus flower. I think few people are aware of this one!
2. No one’s as Irish as Barack Obama!
For this one you REALLY need to listen to this song on YouTube.
“O’Leary, O’Reilly, O’Hare and O’Hara There’s no one as Irish as Barack O’Bama. You don’t believe me, I hear you say But Barack’s as Irish, as was JFK. His granddaddy’s daddy came from Moneygall, A small Irish village, well-known to you all!”
On the topic of Irish-American relations, did you know that James Hoban, an Irishman, designed the White House and apparently Irish composer John Stafford Smith wrote the tune to “Star Spangled Banner” back in 1750! BAM!
1. Irish people struggle to speak Irish.
Thanks to the decrease in the Irish language, when foreigners ask their Irish friends to speak Irish they will *most likely* shout random Irish words such as “Ciúnas! Bóthar! Cailín! Bainne!” and nobody has a clue what they’re saying. And all thank’s to a clever advertising genius in Calsberg.
“On the day of Judgement, while Christ judges all other nations, St Patrick will be the judge of the Irish.”
Yes, Yes, I hear ya! An Irish person, living in Ireland, preaching about the awesomeness of St Patricks Day. How cliché!
But hold up a second, I have my reasons for being seriously over excited about St Paddys Day this year. On March 17th 2013, 9 short days from now, I will get to celebrate all thing Irish on my home stomping ground for the first time in FOUR YEARS!! That’s right, I have spent the last 3 years in a row abroad, and have celebrated Guinness, Leprechauns and ‘The Galway Girl’ in not 1, not 2, but 3 different continients.
There is so much talk at the moment about emigration and how there is nothing left in Ireland for young graduates. It would seem while most of my generation have already emigrated, and many more are debating the move in the near future, I have strangely found myself back in Ireland, back in Cork, living at home and working locally. And dare I say…I’m loving it.
So while I look forward to St Patricks Day at home this year, 2013 – The year of The Gathering, I find myself reminscing about the last 3 Paddys Day spent abroad..spreading my love of all things Irish to the Ozzies, the Koreans and of the Dutch! The only thing that would make this year better would be if all my amazing friends that I made, loved and sadly had to leave whilst abroad could be here with me to join in the celebrations. Here’s to you….Slainte!
This is my 3rd year in a row being outside of Ireland for St Patrick’s Day, by far my favorite holiday of the year. Christmas, Easter, Halloween, New years…all fun but Paddy’s day beats them all hands down!
It is just pure and utter madness.
At first I was quite sad to be away from home, away from all the fun and frolics, the parade, the drinking, the green, the singing, the ceili street dancing and the whole run up to our national day of pride…but after spending it abroad for the last few years, I really appreciate the diverse ways people celebrate all things Irish the world over!
In 2010, I spent Paddy’s Day in Melbourne. It was about 30’c, sun shining and every Irish, half Irish or wannabe Irish person was to be found in any number of Melbourne’s Irish bars…from as early as 8 O Clock in the morning. Well, that’s what time Vera and I started at and there were already some guys on their second pint.It was a pretty awesome day, spent with some Irish friends and many couchsurfers from around the world. We did an epic, day-long pub crawl through out the city planting shamrocks on strangers and jumping on random buses in an attempt to face paint the poor driver. AS it was not half as crowded or chaotic as any Irish city, getting around, ordering drinks, getting food and not being ripped off were all easily accomplished.
Lat year, 2011, I spent Paddy’s day in South Korea…worlds away from both Ireland and Australia! As it fell on a week day, an all day drinking session was definitely out of the question! However, I did have an awesome day decorating my classroom with the irish colours and teaching my students all about St Patrick which was a welcome break from intensive grammar and spelling tests! That night I met some American friends for some DakGalbi (spicy chicken and rice cake dish). One of my friends was called ‘Jameson’, like the Irish whiskey so that was about the closest thing to ‘Irishness’ I encountered that day. It may not have been the normal St Patrick’s Day, but then again you should know by now… I strive for anything but normal!
Now I can’t wait to see what fun is in store for me in The Netherlands!
I guess it doesn’t matter where you are…it matters who you’re with! :D
I thought I would share this video as St Patrick’s Day is just around the corner and hearing this beautiful song in my native Irish tongue(as gaeilige) puts a smile on my face and sends shivers down my spine…in a good way of course. Although I am quite sad I wasn’t in Dublin to see it first hand!
3 days until Paddys Day…bring on the madness!
So this year for St. Patricks Day, or St. Paddy’s day, or Pat’s Day but most certainly NOT to be called PATTIES DAY (!!!!) I shall be in Korea. In fact as I work on thursday the 17th, for te first time in my 25 years of existence I will have to wait until the saturday to celebrate…such blasphemy, I know…times are a changing!
Nonetheless I sense it is going to be a special one. It will be my first time celebrating in Asia, and along with all the other crazy Irish Paddies tinkering about Korea, I plan to celebrate in style! Granted I hate Guinness, I can hardly string a sentence of Irish together but MAN am I patriotic on St. Patricks Day.
I received my “Paddys Day survival Kit” from my mom on Friday; a green t-shirt, over sized Irish flag, a hairband with boing shamrocks attached and a green, white and orange flower leis. Oh and a huge packet of Balloon to distribute amoung friends. A bit of face-paint and nail varnish and I’m all set!
The Irish Association of Korea is hosting (for the 11th year in a row) a festival and parade of sorts in Insadong, in Seoul.Starting at 11.30am and ending at 5pm, there will be traditional Irish dancing, Guinness tasting, crown participation, a U2 cover band and much much more. For the hard core party heads, there is an “all you can eat, all you can drink (including 3 pints of Guinness!!)” party in the aptly named “Dublin Terrace” in Gangnam, and all for a measly 50,000 won. Yes that is ALL YOU CAN EAT AND DRINK. Madness.
Other options include partying in any one of the numerous Irish bars in Itaewon from the Wolfhound to Baby Guinness or JR’s, or maybe veer from the traditional hooley and opt to see an American electro hop quartet band called “Far East Movement” in the Sheraton Grand Hotel.
I‘m getting more than a little excited about the prospect of all the upcoming festivals here in Korea. Winter was pretty brutal with temperatures dropping to -24 at times and more snow than you could shake a stick at. Leaving your house without gloves was a death wish and the amount of times I fell flat on my ass thanks to the ice is not even funny. Although it was hardly “4 months of Hibernation”, it was tough. So as the snow thaws and the temperature slowly rises, the look of relief, above all else, is prominent among my students, colleagues and friends.
Spring, probably the best season of the year, is on it’s way at last! And with Spring come festivals. Lots and lots of fantastic, joy-filled, dance-filled, sunshine-filled festivals! Here is a low-down on the top 5 festivals (in my opinion) to watch out for this spring, and be warned they are not all your typical music festivals! I have included festivals for all the senses…touch, taste, smell, see and hear!
No 5- St Patricks Day Festival Seoul (Sat 19th March 2011)
So what if St Patricks day is actually on Thursday the 17th! Most Irish people, other “wannabe Irish” foreigners and even Koreans who wish to celebrate all things green and Irish will most likely be slaving away at work on the thursday, dreaming of creamy pints of Guinness and luminous shamrock shakes so having the festival on the nearest Saturday is a fantastic idea!
Held annually by the Irish Association of Korea the festival and parade takes place at the aptly named “Dublin Terrace” in Gangnam. There will be an Irish food section, a Guinness sampling corner, face painting and even am “Introduction to Ireland” section for those who have not a clue what St Patricks day is all about (hug a leprechaun if you must!). There will be an after party event in The Sheraton Grand for all those hardcore party-goers!Being Irish and all, Paddys day isalways a highlight of my year. I celebrated it in Melbourne last year and am excited to celebrate in Seoul this year!
No 4- Jindo Sea-parting Festival (19th-21st March)
Here is another festival somewhat related to religion (if St Patricks Day can still be associated with religion, considering it’s more about Saint Guinness these days..!). The Jindo Sea-Parting Festival, “Mystic Sea Road Festival” in English, happens once a year in Jeollanam-do Province when the seas mysteriously part and visitors can walk through the sea from the mainland to a nearby island.
This phenomenon is caused due to the difference in high tides and low tides, which creates a 2.8-kilometer-long road measuring 40 to 60 meters in width and creating a scene similar to that of Moses parting the Red sea in the Bible. The festival is apparently well known with people coming from all over Korea to witness this annual “miracle”.
No 3- Jinhae Gunhangje Festival (1st- 10th April)
Jinhae Gunhangje Festival, which takes place the beginning of April is Koreas biggest cherry blossom festival. Over 2 million tourists come from all over the world to walk along the tree-lined streets and picturesque mountain paths. According to Visit Korea, “There are so many cherry blossom trees in Jinhae that when the wind blows it seems as if it is raining cherry blossom petals.”
I cannot wait to walk down those tree lined paths and see all the beautiful petals with my own eyes. We have a small blossom tree in our garden at home with a swing hanging off it and it has always been my favorite chill out spot, especially come spring time.
No 2- World Dj Festival 2011 (6th-8th May)
With big name music acts/ DJs from all over the world (Freemasons,Jesse Jamz, Will Bailey, Lazy Rich etc) this festival is set to be banging! Taking place over a long weekend in May in YangPyong resort and with weekend camping included this may well be one of the festival highlights of the year!
If you buy your tickets this week there are ridiculously cheap options to promote advance purchase. Or even better, if you want to get more involved in the music scene here in Korea you can volunteer with the preparations for the festival. Not a bad thing to have on you CV, eh?
No 1- Nonsan Strawberry Festival- (8th-10th April)
Do I REALLY have to give reasons why I want to go to this festival?? Okay fine here goes…
Nonsan’s strawberries are supposedly the most delicious in Korea, and at the festival I can pick as many as my basket, or stomach, can hold. BRING IT ON!! There are also plenty of original strawberry creations for visitors to sample, such as strawberry rice cakes and even strawberry hot sauce, as well as established treats like strawberry pancakes and strawberry jam. Yum, Yum in my tum.
One other festival that deserve a mention… CheongDo Bull-fighting Festival, supposedly this “korean tradition” is over 1000 years old. Who needs to fly to Pamplona, Spain when we have this on our doorstep. Don’t know if I could actually sit and watch this due to my fear and hatred of violence but I guess it would be a good experience.