Alexandra’s Traditions Field Note

Week 9: Traditions Field Note


Streets bustling with tourists and locals alike, some dressed totally in green and wearing and waving Irish flags and some even wearing pins made of real clovers. What in the world is going on you might ask? Well, it is Saint Patrick’s Day in Cork, Ireland of course!

Intro: What traditions does the community have?

Cork celebrates a variety of traditions and every tradition they celebrate they make sure to go “all out” when they celebrate. The first tradition that I witnessed when arriving in Cork on January second was the tradition of decorating all the pubs and streets with various types of Christmas decorations. There were even Christmas lights running above the streets weaving back from one side of the street to the other.

Irish people also love watching rugby and Gaelic football matches. Usually people will go out to watch the game at a local pub or someone will host a “rugby party” at their home. These parties are very similar to Superbowl Sunday parties in America.

Another tradition in Cork is RAG week. It is led by the college community. RAG Week stands for Raise and Give Week, which is a week dedicated to raising money for a specific charity. The colleges in Cork compete against each other to see how much they can raise and the community even gets involved by holding special events throughout the week and all of the money made at these events goes to the charity. This year UCC raised more money than the other college campus in Cork and more money than they ever had before!

However, there is one tradition that is commemorated, or acknowledged, just a little bit more than the others. This is the tradition that Cork and the rest of Ireland is especially known for: St. Patrick’s Day!

What tradition did I learn about?

I learned about the festival of St. Patrick’s Day and the traditions that they people and city have associated with this very special weekend over the years. St. Patrick’s Day is on the 17th of March and the community goes a little bit nuts. The amount of activities, food and tourists in Cork to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day was crazy!

Year after year Cork’s St. Patrick’s Day festival gets bigger and bigger. They have vendors that come into the city center and set up their stations selling trinkets, gifts, crafts and food as well as a huge parade that lasts for over an hour! The pubs also bring in live musicians to play during the day and at night. People take off work and the majority of the shops shut down for the few days surrounding St. Patrick’s Day. This year, because it was on a Sunday, the celebrations began Friday and lasted until Monday afternoon.

People of all ages celebrate this tradition, but each of them in a different way. I asked a few people throughout the weekend what they did to commemorate St. Patrick’s Day.

A Child’s (10 years old): “This week we have been learning about St. Patrick in school and we did a few coloring pages and put them up in the hallway. I am going to go to the parade with my family and then my mom makes a special cake that has green frosting on it.”

A College Student (20 years old): “I remember learning about it in school and my “mum” used to make us go to church on St. Patrick’s Day, but this year I am going to go out with my friends to listen to the live music all around the city.”

A Woman (35 years old): “Oh, well I use to go out with my friends for the entire weekend but now that I have children I think we will probably just go to the parade and then come home and go to my mother’s house and make dinner together.”

How I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, or rather St. Patrick’s Day Weekend, was by partaking in as many of the festivities that I could. Starting on Friday my friends and I went out to listen to live traditional Irish music. On Saturday we walked around the city center stopping at all of the vendors and seeing what types of goodies they had for sale. Then we went to listen to some of the local bands in Cork play on our campus. On Sunday we got up and went to mass, which was in Irish, and then went to the parade! Afterwards we came back and had a potluck dinner together.

Why does the community have this tradition?

The community and the country as a whole originally had the tradition of celebrating St. Patrick for religious purposes. Over the years though it has been modernized into a more social tradition rather than a religious one, although a fair amount of people attend mass in the morning to commemorate the day.

Now for a little bit of fact and fiction about St. Patrick. St. Patrick is most commonly known for driving all of the snakes out of Ireland, but in fact this is fiction. Over the years the oral story telling tradition has modified St. Patrick’s tale and enhanced it to make it more appealing. Would you like to know the real story of St. Patrick? It has quite a climatic, or exciting beginning where St. Patrick was captured and taken prisoner by Irish raiders when he was only sixteen years old!

St. Patrick was held captive for over six years in Ireland working as a shepherd and having no one else to comfort him turned to Christianity. After hearing a voice, presumably God’s voice, which told him it was time to leave and he escaped. Eventually he heard a second voice that told him he must go back to Ireland and become a missionary to spread Christianity throughout all of Ireland. Another interesting point, which is fiction, is the idea that St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland, when in fact it had been there for quite some time but it was not very common.

Another interesting aspect about St. Patrick spreading Christianity throughout Ireland is that he decided to use a few techniques which were already common in Ireland in order to make it seem more natural. Firstly he knew that the majority of Irish people used fire to honor their gods and decided to use the symbol of a bonfire to celebrate Easter. Secondly, he knew that the symbol of the cross was extremely important to the Irish peoples’ gods so he decided to incorporate the symbol of the sun onto the Christian cross symbol, therefore creating the “Celtic cross.”

Is this tradition connected to its environment? How?

I would say this tradition is not exactly tied to the environment, however, there is one aspect of this tradition that connects to the environment. This being the amount of clover produced for St. Patrick’s Day.  As part of celebrating the tradition many people buy pins which are made from real clover plants and wear them for the day.

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