More than one person in the States has commented to us recently, “They don’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, do they?” You know, it’s one of those things they heard someone who heard it from someone else. It’s true America can go a little over-the-top celebrating the day, and New York has the largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world, but let me assure you that the Irish do celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

Though he was probably Welsh by birth, St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. His saint’s day is a bank holiday, a national holiday, and most cities, including Cork, have a parade and a celebration. Amy had been warned by some of her co-workers, though, that the parade was not that impressive, and was mostly just people walking. Still, it was our first St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, and we couldn’t miss out on the celebration. So this morning, Amy and I went with our friend Arun to Cork City Centre so we could all see our first St. Patrick’s Day parade in Ireland (actually, for all three of us, it was our first St. Patrick’s Day parade seen live) .

The streets around the very heart of the city were all closed off hours before the parade was scheduled to start at 1, and we wandered down to a small group of booths selling food from local vendors. Much of the selection was about what you’d expect at a fair in the states: Brats, American hot dogs (at €4 each), ice cream, candy, curried chicken on rice, and my own choice, the pork and onion burger with bacon on top. Any pork product that comes with bacon on top is of course a winner in my book.

After a bite to eat, we made our way to St. Patrick’s Street (usually just called Patrick’s Street) to await the parade. Soon, a group of motorcycles came roaring by, and the parade was on. Or so we thought. A few minutes passed and nothing happened. Finally, several groups of marchers passed in succession. And then a wait. This tended to be the pattern; we were near the end of the route, so the different units of the parade had time to spread out before reaching us.

Even though Cork is the second largest city in the Republic of Ireland, it can still feel like a small town. The parade certainly seemed more like that in a small town rather than what you’d see in a big city. Other than the motorcycles at the beginning, and two SUVs following an Army unit, I don’t think there were any other motorized vehicles. There were marching bands (usually bagpipe bands), and plenty of little kids, including basketball groups, an in-line skate hockey team, and dance schools.

There were also quite a few marchers from other countries. The biggest group of immigrants in Ireland is from Poland, and there were several Polish groups in the parade. It was nice to see so much cross-cultural representation, because there have been a few incidents of violence toward Poles in Dublin recently. There were also groups representing people from many different African countries. Eventually, the parade ended, or at least stopped for long enough for us to decide to move on.

A few hours after we got home, we watched the TV news showing highlights of the parades in Dublin, Cork, and Galway. Many of the images of the Cork parade were familiar, from the frogs to the Chihuahua. Yes, the Chihuahua. But then, we found ourselves looking at a float on TV and saying, “We didn’t see that.” It’s possible the float appeared after we left, but I wonder if it even made it to our location.

After the parade, the traditional way of celebrating the day began for many of the adults: going to pubs and drinking. Maybe next year we’ll join them.

 You can see more photos of the St. Patrick’s Day Celebration in Cork on our Flickr site.

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