How green is Ireland?
Photo Credit:Tourism Ireland
by Agnes Chung
As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, expect to see more green everywhere. The celebration on March 17 honours the “Apostle of Ireland”, Saint Patrick, a Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop who was instrumental in spreading the gospel in Ireland during the fifth century.
“Dublin has the largest St. Patrick’s Day festivity lasting over a week with a big parade, lots of music and events,” says Dana Welch, manager for Tourism Ireland in Canada. Welch adds that about 300 iconic sites and landmarks around the world will be illuminated in green on March 17, including Canadian landmarks such as, Canada Place Sails, Whistler Village and Niagara Falls.
It’s a Tourism Ireland Global Greening Initiative that celebrates St. Patrick’s Day and the island of Ireland on a global scale. Outside of Ireland, Manhattan in New York City hosts the world’s single largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
This day also marks the national day for the Republic of Ireland. Politically, the island of Ireland houses two countries: the Republic of Ireland, and Northern Ireland (which forms part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland).
Forty shades of green
Blue is the original colour associated with St. Patrick’s Day. The colour green traces its roots to Irish political history, according to Dr. Timothy McMahon of the American Conference for Irish Studies in a Time’s article.
“The lush landscape is how the colour green is associated with Ireland,” shares Welch. Late American singer-songwriter Johnny Cash best described it in his famous 1959 song “Forty Shades of Green” on his trip to Ireland 60 years ago.
“The island’s mild climate and warm waters of the Gulf Stream keep the fields green year round, Ireland has many golf courses and it’s one of the Irish flag colours,” explains Welch. It is also the colour of the shamrock, Ireland’s national flower. Legend has it that Saint Patrick, Ireland’s prominent patron saint, used the shamrock’s three heart-shaped leaves to illustrate the Holy Trinity.
Ireland is probably the most evocative region in Europe, one epitomized by its rich history and captivating landscape. Breathtaking sceneries span rugged coastline and verdant terrain sprinkled with magnificent, yet seemingly derelict castles perched atop rolling hills.
Irish medieval castles erupt with epic tales and intrigue of chieftains who once lived in these fortified homes built for defence. Bunratty Castle and Blarney Castle are the two most popular travel attractions. A number of castles have also been converted to luxury hotels like the Ashford Castle and Dromoland Castle.
“Céad Míle Fáilte (a hundred thousand welcomes in Irish Gaelic) truly rings through Ireland,” shares Welch. “We often hear from people who returned from Ireland, that Irish people are genuinely friendly and warm,” she adds. Music is an important part of the Irish culture. The Irish harp is the national symbol of Ireland.
More than soda bread and stew
Traditional Irish cuisine is hearty comfort food at its best. While soda bread, lamb stew, boxty (potato pancake) and colcannon (mashed potato with chopped kale or cabbage, green onion, cream and butter) remain classic dishes, innovative Irish chefs like Kevin Dundon and Donal Skehan are creating new flavours with locally-sourced ingredients.
A taste of the famous Guinness, an Irish dry stout (dark beer), and the country’s delectable cuisine is a must on an Irish trip. “Ireland is not on the foodie destination list, but visitors are pleasantly surprised by the great food as they are not expecting it,” says Welch. “Ireland has Michelin-star-rated restaurants, and even in the pubs you get great food. We have incredible fresh local produce, seafood and the food scene is really growing.”
Irish seaweed, the ‘green food’ often hailed as ‘the new kale’ has caught the interest of health food lovers. Welch mentions Dr. Prannie Rhatigan, a medical doctor who specializes in Irish seaweed – and Lough Hyne, near Cork, that offers different kinds of seafood, fauna and flora, and bioluminescent experience. Lough Hyne is Ireland’s first marine nature reserve and unique sea-water lake.
Hockey and the Irish connection
Irish influence extends beyond St. Patrick’s Day. According to the Irish documentary, Puc na nGael (Puck of the Irish), Irish settlers played a key role in developing Canadian ice hockey. In the film, Irish hurling legend Ger Loughnane revealed how Irish immigrants who settled in Canada over 200 years ago, played a pivotal part in creating the game from the start on a frozen pond in Nova Scotia. Highlights include interviews with renowned ice hockey players like Brendan Shanahan and Geraldine Hearney, and the Irish affiliation to the Montreal Canadiens and Maple Leafs.
So, just how green is this island? “From space you can see the ‘Emerald Isle’ is very green,” tweeted former NASA astronaut Terry Virts on St. Patrick’s Day in 2015.