A St. Patrick's Day Q&A with an Irishman living in Windsor

We ask an Irishman how a St. Paddy's Day spent in Windsor compares to one in Ireland.

Today is the day that, so they tell us, you're either Irish or wish you were. It's St. Patrick's Day, or the Feast of St. Patrick.

Held every year on March 17, it's the day St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is believed to have died in the year 461 A.D. It's a national holiday in Ireland and also a holiday in Newfoundland and Labrador.

For the many in the rest of Canada, it's often seen as an excuse to party.

Local bars and pubs will be busy places today, and Celtic music will be the order of the day.

Originally from Bellewstown, about 45 minutes north of Dublin, Brendan Teeling is working on his master's degree at the University of Windsor.

He sat down with CBC's Aadel Haleem to discuss how Canada and Ireland celebrate St. Paddy's Day.

What's St. Patrick's Day like back home?

Back home, it's a lot bigger. It's like a sea of green if you go into the city, there's pubs on every corner. Even in the small towns, they'll all have their own parade. It's a real national-pride kind-of-patriotic event. We'll all get little shamrocks and pin them on our shirts. Some guys will even go the full nine yards with a green suit and in the actual city, there's a lot of tourists. They really like it as well and get really involved. The parade will have St. Patrick walking but they'll also have Brazilian dancers, as well, it's just a really big event.

How is St. Paddy's Day celebrated in Ireland?

Religion is a big factor back home. Usually most families will go to church and they'll have a mass and every town has their own parade. Usually local businesses will have stands and stalls and they'll make the parade down the street and make a loop and come back around. And they'll have the young - if there's martial artists, they'll have them in the parade to let them get involved. There'll be dancers and Irish dancers and it's pretty funny because even on the news they'll go to each town and show the highlights. And obviously in Dublin it's a lot bigger, so they'll have a massive [celebration], I don't know what they put into it but it's a lot of money. It's just like a sea of green in the crowd and it's great.

What are your thoughts on how Windsorites celebrate St. Paddy's Day?

There's a lot more focus on drinking over here. Well, there's a lot of drinking back home, but I think it's even more over here, even more so. Obviously, you don't have the national holiday, so people don't have the day off wok unless they take it off and there's still school going on.  Back home, we have the day off.

Last year [in Windsor], we started pretty early. We went down to Sandwich Street and it was great, it was a lot of fun. We had Irish dancers as well, which was good. That would be the same back home. They don't really play Irish traditional music [here] but I suppose the demand for it isn't here.

How do you feel about all the cliches, like shamrocks, leprechauns and green top hats?

[laughs] Well, like that's what people know us for — and the drinking as well, of course. The leprechauns are obviously folklore and the shamrocks are for religious reasons. And then St. Patrick also brought Christianity to Ireland, but he was actually Welsh. I think it's great though, people dressing up as leprechauns and wearing the shamrocks and everything else.

Be honest, do they serve green beer in Ireland?

I actually don't remember them having green beer in Ireland, to be honest. We have little green apple sour shots but obviously Guinness is the big factor. For some reason it tastes better back home than here, I don't know why. But that's the big one back home, a pint of Guinness.

What do you think of green beer?

I've never had green beer. Well, maybe last Paddy's Day I did at Sam's Pizzeria.

You've also celebrated St. Paddy's Day in Australia, right?

That was pretty weird because it's such a nice climate and then for Paddy's Day it was lashing rain, like worse than back home. But it was fun. It probably wasn't as built up as here or back home, but it was great as well. I really enjoyed it.

Does anything done to celebrate in Canada offend you?

[Laughs] No, not at all! I think like everyone is going to make fun of us for eating potatoes and leprechauns and whatever else, it doesn't bother me at all.The drinking culture in Ireland is probably the same as here. Like my parents don't drink but everywhere there's going to be people that don't drink and drink. And where's there's young people in a small university town, they're going to drink as well, so it's kind of expected. 

Are you going to be wearing green today?

Yep. I've got my flag ready! [laughs]


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