As one of the largest islands in the world, and the third largest island in Europe, Ireland is a place that has plenty to offer in terms of history and culture. The Irish way of life has managed to spread its reaches to all four corners of the globe, and whether you know it or not, Ireland’s worldwide impact has left many traces that can be considered as “distinctly Irish.”
If there’s one thing the Irish are most famous for, it’s probably their love of a good old tipple or two, and no alcoholic drink represents Ireland better than that popular dry stout,Guinness. Ireland’s most popular drink has found world fame since it started its life in a small brewery in the country’s capital Dublin, way back in 1759. From those humble roots Guinness has spread to pubs worldwide, made famous for its distinctly thick and creamy head. Today, it is brewed in 60 countries, with 850 million litres of the stuff being sold globally each year.
St Patrick’s Day
St Patrick’s Day marks the Irish celebration of the most famous patron saint of Ireland; Saint Patrick. Landing on 17 March, the day is a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Although predominantly an Irish public holiday, St Patrick’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world, in particular throughout the UK, USA, Canada and Australia, largely due to the prevalence of strong Irish cultures that live in those countries. The day itself is usually celebrated in true Irish fashion, with people dressing in green, sporting shamrocks and enjoying a healthy dose of alcohol.
The Shamrock, or young clover, really couldn’t be more Irish. As the legend goes, St Patrick himself used the shamrock as a metaphor for the Christian Trinity. However, all legends aside, the shamrock has been the symbol of Ireland since the 18th century. Since then, its use to signify Ireland and all things Irish has seen exponential growth, to the point that Ireland actually registered a trademark for the shamrock in the 1980s. Today, the shamrock is used as a symbol all throughout Ireland, proudly displayed by Irish organisations, on Irish postage stamps and on countless Irish souvenirs and memorabilia.
The leprechaun is the equivalent of a fairy in Irish myth and folklore. Although instead of having wings and being female, the leprechaun is a mischievous, little old Irish man that is usually depicted wearing a green coat and sporting a healthy beard. As the story goes, the leprechaun is a creature that loves making shoes and storing money in a pot of gold that can be found at the end of a rainbow. If caught, the leprechaun offers three wishes to his captor in exchange for his release. The leprechaun is a widely used symbol of Ireland, and in today’s culture, he is often portrayed as being “stereotypically Irish,” coming complete with his own bubbly Irish accent.
If Ireland has a colour it is undoubtedly the colour green. The shamrock is green, the leprechaun dresses in green, and if you look at Ireland in any satellite images, the whole country is, you’ve guessed it, covered in a blanket of green. Ireland is in fact so green, both culturally and environmentally, that it has gained itself the nickname “Emerald Isle.” However, as much as Ireland is associated with the colour green today, this has not always been the case. In fact, Ireland was traditionally associated with the colour blue, and there’s even a popular phrase in Irish history called “St Patrick’s Blue.” Try telling that to everyone in their green hats on St Patrick’s Day.
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