As of 10 hours ago it’s St. Patrick’s Day! Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone, let’s drink a pint o’ Guinness (hold on while I go get one real quick). Alright, so let’s establish right here and now that it’s St. Paddy’s Day, not Patty. This day isn’t for Patty from the office who always seems to leave just enough coffee in the pot so that when you show up, you have to brew the new pot. Rather today is for St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, former slave, and guy who thinks snakes are generally “slimy.” Now then, let’s have some grand ol’ craic.
I was fortunate in my life to have lived in Dublin for a semester in college. I can honestly say, that semester was life changing. Between the vibrancy of the culture and the beauty of the country, I have a hard time imagining falling anywhere near as in love with a land as I did with Ireland. If nothing else, I would move back for the Guinness. We all like Guinness well enough here in the US, but a pint in a traditional Dublin pub is a life changing experience. You taste your artfully poured pint and you just get it. It’s like opening your third alcoholic eye.
But for all the beauty and deliciousness I’ve mentioned, the thing that has stuck with me more than anything is the music. Traditional Irish songs are something of a wonder. Let me paint a picture for you. You’re walking through a small town in western Ireland, Dingle perhaps? It’s cool and rainy outside; the wind comes blowing down the alley. You pull up your collar a bit more and lower your hat to protect you from the drizzle. The brick pathway is wet and has turned a dark brown color as the sun sets over the horizon. As you walk up to the old stone pub and pull on the heavy wooden door with the black iron knob you hear it. The drifting melodies guitar, fiddles, and flute. You open the door and the rush of harmonic voices and instrument hit you as hard as the warm air that smells of hot stew, beer, and cigarettes. As you walk into the lowly lit, wooden walled room you see three men on stage. They’re performing “The Fields of Athenry” and you hear Michael’s pain. You can’t help but hum as you order your pint. Soon you find yourself singing along, arm around the friend you just made next to you. It’s so lonely around the fields of Athenry; you need some drinking buds. As the song winds down and you all cheer, they begin “Wild Rover” and suddenly people are dancing and singing along as bawdily as they can. You take another swig and join in. Guinness and music have rid you of inhibition and you’re having the time of your life. It’s hard to have inhibition if you’re going to truly appreciate Molly Malone.
If there are three things I learned the Irish appreciate it’s these: Guinness, music, and storytelling. The three are central to their cultural identity. It’s a pastime but even more so than that, it is apart of who they are, it is apart of life. The Irish are far from the only culture to have these qualities, but I feel as if they have perfected the art. It has even evolved to fit modern musical tastes with fantastic bands like Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murpheys (who throw one hell of a show). I can only hope that someday you have the same opportunity to experience it firsthand as I did.
Here are a few songs I mentioned in the post and hope you’ll listen to.