The great Gaels of Ireland are the men that God made mad, for all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad. So said GK Chesterton in his epic poem The Ballad of the White Horse. And, in fairness, the man had a point. Is there any other nation in the world whose offspring dotted around the world try to turn the world green for a day?
Way back at the close of the eighteenth century, Ireland was in a terrible state. The failed Irish Rebellion that had raged through the summer of 1798 still rankled. Being Irish was a curse rather than a blessing. The songs of the time spoke to the frustration of the people.
The Wearing of the Green is a traditional folk song that tells of a time when it was considered an act of rebellion to wear green clothes in Ireland; a time when sporting a shamrock could cost you your life. It’s difficult to imagine, but those were the days. The best known set of lyrics was written in 1864 by playwright Dion Boucicault, as part of his play Arragh na Pogue which, incidentally, was made into a silent film in 1911, shot in Co. Kerry. But I digress. I need to move to Budapest, to 2016, to green, and the wearing thereof.
There is no better occasion to wear green in Budapest than during the week of the St Patrick’s Festival, presided over by the Irish Hungarian Business Circle (IHBC) and friends.
An exciting addition to the programme of festivities this year is an open Feis, an international Irish dance competition sanctioned by the World Irish Dance Association. Organised by IHBC associate member the Central European Irish Dance Academy (irtancakademia.hu) and the Emerald Shoe Foundation, I’ve heard that entries are already in from the Netherlands, Germany, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Romania, and of course Hungary. It will run all day from 8am to 6pm at the Folyondár Sports Hall (1037 Budapest, Folyondár utca 15). If you’re curious to see how Michael Flatley started off, come watch. [I heard a rumour a few years back that most of Flatley’s male cohort are Hungarian dancers…]
That same evening, 19 March, the annual St Patrick’s Day Gala Dinner will be held at the Marriott Hotel in Budapest. This silver-service, black-tie event, now in its eleventh year, is a great opportunity to dress up and experience a real Irish-Hungarian night out. With a four-course Irish dinner, traditional Irish music and dance, and a bigger-than-usual helping of the requisite Irish craic, it’s a night not to be missed. Tickets are on sale now from the IHBC. See www.IHBC.hu for more details.
On Sunday, 20th March, the annual St Patrick’s Day parade will set off from Szabadsag tér and wind its way through the city, to end up at Instant on Nagymező utca 38 where the party will continue until the wee hours of the morning with all sorts of bands and musicians in full flow. Over 3000 people are expected to join the bagpipers, the leprechauns, the Irish wolfhounds, St Patrick himself reincarnated, and other random characters dressed in green to mix and mingle and follow the floats. For those yet to experience it first hand, the three basic elements of a real Irish party – ceoil (music), caint (chat), agus craic (and fun) – are guaranteed to be in attendance.
So check your wardrobe. Pick out your green. And come join us. As the song says: When laws can stop the blades of grass from growin’ as they grow, And when the leaves in summer-time their colour dare not show, Then I will change the colour too I wear in my caubeen (hat), But till that day, please God, I’ll stick to the Wearin’ o’ the Green.
First published in the Budapest Times 11 March 2016