Being Irish or of Irish descent is an all-year-round thing, going well beyond St. Patrick’s Day. Likewise, it goes beyond drinking to excess and the so-called wearing of the green. In many ways, people tend to overlook the history, culture, and arts of Ireland in the wake of the weekend-long partying attached to its patron saint’s feast day. But if you’re looking for a unique way to explore and enjoy your Irish heritage (or are a non-Irish person interested in learning more about the land of saints and scholars), here are several fun and respectful ways to celebrate Irish culture.
Ireland and cuisine rarely come up in the same sentence. Still, there are plenty of tasty dishes from the Emerald Isle beyond the more traditionally Irish American corned beef and cabbage. You can never go wrong with a simple recipe for Irish soda bread, which, when lightly buttered, makes a lovely accompaniment for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Multiple Irish stew recipes are available online that will warm you up and provide a hearty repast. Colcannon is a dish of mashed potatoes and a little bit more, depending on the recipe you come across. And if you’re feeling comfortable in your cooking skills, try your hand at baking a fish pie made of cod, potatoes, onions, various seasonings, and a bit of cream.
Irish step dancing became a worldwide phenomenon with Riverdance, but the form has remained popular and distinctively Irish for many decades before and after that production. Attend a feis or festival where Irish dance is performed and celebrated. You’ll see dancers of all ages and levels of society performing jigs, reels, hornpipe, and traditional and nontraditional sets, either in the soft ghillie shoes or the more percussive hard shoes or heavies. These dance events are energetic, rapid, and won’t leave you bored!
Irish music is more than Enya and U2. Traditional Irish music has roots going back for hundreds of years and has been collected and transcribed since the 18th century. While fiddles are indeed traditional Irish instruments (with multiple great fiddlers preserved since the advent of recording technology), others provide a uniquely Hibernian sound. These include cruits, timpans, and clairseaches: types of harps, fifes, flutes, hornpipes, and uilleann pipes—or Irish bagpipes—and others. Ask about traditional Irish music at the library, and they’ll surely turn up some mighty fine tunes.
One of the best ways to celebrate Irish culture is to help preserve its language. While most contemporary Irish people speak English, Irish (called Gaelic by some) is a 2,000-year-old language of incredible beauty and delicacy. While not a dying language, it’s certainly an overlooked one with fewer native speakers as the years pass. Irish cultural and heritage centers and schools likely offer courses in your area, and many sites and apps can provide you with basic instruction.