Kermit the Frog may have said it’s not easy being green, but he clearly wasn’t Irish. This Thursday (March 17), the world unites to paint the town green in a festival of Irish pride.
But whether you’re Irish or not, you’ll find it easy to be swept up in the magic of the shamrock. Here’s our guide to the highlights from the green sites.
Sydney has one of the largest populations of Irish people in Australia and, considering about a third of the country has some Irish ancestry, it’s no wonder that they come out in force for the party.
This year the St Patrick’s Day Parade will occur on Sunday (March 20), in the city centre, with costumed dancers, Irish music and any other Irish cliché you can think of. But before all of that, remember that St Paddy’s is actually on Thursday and is best commemorated in a pub with a pint of the black gold – Guinness. This is the one day of the year where it’s okay to be black-listed at the bar.
So, why all the fuss? Why all the drinking? Why all the green? Well, it all dates back to March 17, 493AD, when Ireland’s patron saint,Patrick, took his last breath.
See, he was a holy man living in northern England when, aged just 16, a bunch of Irish slave traders nabbed him. It is claimed he was then told by God in a dream to flee from captivity and head back to Britain.
He followed these divine orders and when he arrived, decided to become a priest. Legend has it he also banished snakes from Ireland, however, evidence suggests there hadn’t been any snakes in the emerald isle for a looong, long time so history boffins believe the snakes might refer to pesky pagan druids.
Okay, but why the green and why the drinking? The green signifies the shamrock, a three-leafed plant that Paddy used to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish. As for the drinking, well who really cares, maybe God told him to get pissed in a vision, this is the Irish we’re talking about – does there need to be an excuse?
Likewise goes for the Aussies who become honorary Irish for the day, spray-painting themselves green, getting completely smashed and saddling up to those Irish folk wearing ‘Kiss me, I’m Irish’ T-shirts. So, where can you go to get luck-of-the-Irish lucky?
Head down to PJ O’Brien’s at the bottom of the Grace Hotel in Sydney where they’re putting on a special 7am St Patrick’s Day breakfast – the real deal, including black pudding, fried eggs and of course, a pint of Guinness.
Paddy Maguire’s, also in the city, is doing Irish music and food all day, kicking off from 9am with plenty of drink specials, prizes and Guinness giveaways throughout the day. Love it or hate it, Scruffy Murphy’s will be going off on St Paddy’s Day. There’s food and drink specials all day but get in early to avoid the crowds unless you like being covered in the Guinness sweats.
To get into the thick of the action whilst having room to breathe, look no further than the Rocks. The Mercantile may look like a urinal, but inside it’s a beautiful all-wood bar and a great spot for some Irish dancing with backpackers in leprechaun hats. Or for something a little different, Scary Canary is doing a midget versus leprechaun boxing tournament from 2pm. Yep, you read that right. There’s also $5 green pints and $10 green buckets, a free BBQ and live DJs and bands.
Not wanting to miss out, Brisbane is doing its own leprechaun tossing at Irish bar Gilhooley’s Tavern, with Irish food and drink specials all day.
Melbourne’s biggest party is at the PJ O’Brien’s on Southbank, with their doors opening at 8am for the traditional Irish breakfast for $20, including a pint of what they claim is the best-tasting Guinness in Australia.
If you’re missing your fix of Irish music, then get yourself a ticket to the Shenanigans Irish Music Festival where you can see The Wolfe Tones, Mundy and Celtic Fire. Shenanigans tours Melbourne (March 19), Sydney (March 20), Perth (March 25) and Brisbane (March 26). See www.ticketek.com.au to buy tickets
So what exactly is Guinness I hear you ask? Originating in Dublin in the early 18th century, it is still Ireland’s best selling beer to date. It’s a dry stout made from water, barley, hops and brewer’s yeast. Oh and vegetarians beware, there are traces of fish bladders – although Guinness claims these are unlikely to be found in the finished product.
Despite its ugly demeanor, it is actually one of the healthiest beers around. Full of anti-oxidants that slow down the deposits of cholesterol on the arteries. And even though it’s like drinking a meal, Guinness has less calories than a pint of orange juice, kicking all of those ‘low-carb’ beers arses. In fact, in Ireland, Guinness is made available to blood donors and those sick with stomach problems because of its high iron content.
Actress Gweneth Paltrow says the secret to her health is down to drinking her favourite beer, Guinness, claiming that before an awards ceremony she calms her nerves “the Irish way”. Move over Pure Blonde, I’ll have a pint of Guinness please.
You’ve got three days to get over your green hangover before the Irish kick it all off again with Sydney’s St Patrick’s Day Parade.
It starts at the corner of Bathurst and George St, at midday this Sunday (March 20), and ends up at James St. It will showcase the best in Irish history and culture.
The theme of this year’s parade is the ‘Book of Kells’ and, lets face it, everybody has an Irish friend called Kelly they can bring. Okay, it possibly also has something to do with the famous book of manuscripts containing the New Testament, but whatever. Check outwww.stpatricksday.org.au for more info on everything happening on parade day and more.