March the 17th is a day the world bleeds green and many, regardless of their heritage, come out to celebrate one of the most jovial events of the year, St Patrick’s day. For the Irish, it is a great chance to relish in their Celtic roots, and for everyone else, it is a perfect occasion to dive into the rich culture of Ireland.
The festival commemorates the Saint Patrick who brought Christianity to Ireland. Held on the day believed to be his death in 461, it has been an official festival since the early 17th century; when the church lifted all Lenten restrictions on the public. This move then began to characterise the festival, as people would celebrate their day from modesty by grand celebrations: with dancing, colourful green garms, feasting and drinking. This spirit was taken with many Irish immigrants who moved to America in the mid 19th century and helped make the festival what it is today, where it is celebrated the world over.
And Brussels is no exception. The Embassy of Ireland in Belgium will once again be leading the Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations. Speaking to Brussels Express, Ambassador Helena Nolan, said “We are very fortunate to have one day and one colour associated with Ireland, at home and around the world”.
The Irish Embassy has in the past made sure that they paint the town green, and on the night of the celebration the Brussels Grand Place will be illuminated with the colours of Ireland. “We are delighted that Belgium will join the “Global Greening” initiative again this year and that a number of iconic locations will be illuminated in green to mark the occasion” Nolan said. “There is a vibrant Irish Community here in Belgium which organises many events to mark St Patrick’s Day, such as the festival in Parc du Cinquantenaire last Sunday, which the Embassy supports.”
The Embassy is also organising plenty of events in the upcoming days of the festivities. Renowned Irish author, John Banville will be at Passaporta on 15th of March for a reading supported by the Embassy. Irish Minister for Health, Simon Harris, will be here on 16th of March for a full programme of meetings which culminates in a Diplomatic Reception with lots of Irish food and drink; traditional Irish music and young Irish dancers from a local Irish dancing school, and a Saint Patrick’s Ball held on the 17th of March.
And before you go of on your Irish escapade, you may want to swing by the famous Manneken Pis statue in Brussels, where Nolan will have the honour of dressing the iconic landmark in his irish garms.
In order to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day properly, there are some necessary elements. At home or at the pub, there are customs for the festival. So follow this guide to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day, the celtic way.
Green! The colour of the emerald isle and worn proudly on the day. It is tradition to wear an item of clothing (or everything) green. A t-shirt, a hat, jacket, anything to immerse yourself in the fields of green your sure to see at the local taverns. Four leaf clovers are also part of the festival, and symbolise good luck too, so why not draw on on your cheeks, hands and celebrate the one time which having plants drawn on you is the norm!
The more the merrier! This festival is about everyone being together in celebration. Whether your out and about or home with your family, toast a Guinness and sing a song, and listen to river dance music to get the vibe filled with the spirit of the celebration.
The Irish have a rich, musical heritage, and St Patrick’s is a day that cannot be spent without it! At the pub, bands will ring out to the sound of piccolos, bagpipes and violins, and maybe even some river dancing as the night goes on and the drinks are drunk. And don’t dare go for the craft beers or the Duvels, no, today is a day for a stout, and many bars in Belgium offer them.
Essential Brussels Irish pubs to get your stouts
Brussels has some great Irish pubs, like the Michael Collins at Bailli, the De Valera’s at Flagey, the O’Reilly’s in front of the Bourse and even some In the middle of the European district, like The Old Oak, The Hairy Canary or the James Joyce; Each are easily recognised by their typical, dark wood decor.
Wherever you end up, good spirit is guaranteed in each Irish pub on the day. At the bar, summon up all your bravado and venture for a Guinness or a Kilkenny. Admittedly acquired tastes, so for those new to stouts, go for the Kilkenny as it is half lager and half stout, so you’ll be able to join in without grimacing after each sip!
And after a few drinks, why not strike up a conversation with some Irish expatriates; there should be plenty, as Belgium has up to 15,000 living in the country, and many are sure to be out celebrating.
However you celebrate, just remember the core tenants of the holiday: merriment, family and friends, music, song, dance and life and you’ll finish the night understanding the importance of St Patrick’s day.