By Enya Rice
Lá Fhéile Pádraig(La-fail-a-paw-drig) is the national day of Ireland, celebrated by people in all corners of the world from the USA to Australia. It is one of the most important holidays of the year in Ireland and it has earned its place on the calendar here in the UAE. The month of March promises an action-packed line up of events to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and you would be crazy to miss out!
The arrival of St. Patrick to Ireland dates back to around 400AD where he is said to have brought Christianity to, what the Romans called, ‘the edge of the Earth.’His legacy has been commemorated every 17th March for the past four centuries and the day brings out the lively nature of the Irish people. Traditionally many would celebrate the day by going to church, wearing shamrocks and possibly going to the céilithe (kay-lee) for a wee dance and some music but recently we have found more modern and exciting ways to celebrate the holiday. Colourful parades in Dublin show off the vibrancy of Irish culture and give a more modern perspective on what the Celtic nation has to offer. Having said this, the old ways are never forgotten and there are constant reminders of our history and folklore integrated into the dizzying array of floats and costumes. People from all over the world come to Ireland on this special day to reconnect with their Irish roots, join in with the parades or to enjoy the show. With over 500,000 people in Dublin swarming the streets on this day, it’s a promise that there will never be a dry moment.
Even though celebrations are not as vivacious as they are in the Emerald Isle, the UAE does know how to make a statement to the world. Abu Dhabi held the very first GAA World Games in Zayed Sport City from the 5th-7th March. They hosted numerous teams from Europe, New York, the Middle East and many other nations from around the globe. Both Gaelic Football and Hurling are sports embedded in Irish culture, having mythical origins and are thrilling to watch, so it will be an exciting weekend for any sport lovers. It will also be a great opportunity for families to celebrate the Irish culture as there will be numerous exhibitions alongside the actual games such as Irish dancing, traditional music, business forums and many more that show off our heritage. To add to the monumental month, the legendary Sir Bob Geldof also returned o the Irish Village in Dubai for his ninth consecutive year to celebrate ‘St. Paddy’s Day’. He, alongside his infamous band The Boomtown Rats, will be playing well into the night on Friday 13th and hopefully the luck of the Irish will be with him on that day! The cityscapes in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai will also be lit up to celebrate the Feast of St Patrick. Both Jumeirah Etihad Towers hotel and the Burj Al Arab will be glowing green today, the 17th of March alongside many more iconic monuments such as the Coliseum in Rome and the Empire State Building in New York. As well as this, Jumeirah Etihad Towers will be hosting the St. Patrick’s Day Ball which the Abu Dhabi Irish Society organises every year. This year, in particular, is quite significant as the Irish Society is celebrating its 40th anniversary on the 19th March here in the capital.
As an Irish person living here in the UAE, I find it important to celebrate my heritage and to share my culture in this diverse community we are part of. St. Patrick’s Day is not only a celebration of Irish nationalism but it is also a way for the 8,000 Irish residents in the Emirates to feel that much closer to home. And the UAE has done this brilliantly, promising the next few weeks to be full of craic agus ceol (fun and music)!