Story by Janine MacLean
Vacay.ca Food Columnist
TEMPLETUOHY, IRELAND — We’re at our local in the village of Templetuohy in County Tipperary. Tuohy, as the locals endearingly call it, is so small you’ll be hard pressed to find it on your GPS. Yet, it is home to three distinct pubs and enough patrons to keep them all in business. Ours is perfection, in my opinion. A slightly surly publican pours pints of Guinness and Carlsberg behind the bar while the locals (mostly farmers) are engrossed with the dart competition on the television.
The fire roars on at closing time, which means that when 2 am hits the owner will simply lock the door, close the curtains and continue selling booze to his customers. The only change, now that it’s “closed”, is the customers all suddenly light up their previously withheld cigarettes. We continue drinking and socializing until 5 am.
The whole world loves the Irish. How could anyone not? No other country is as stereotypically drunk, fun and friendly. No other country has been the direct or indirect cause of populating so many other countries (did you know that Ireland is the only European Union member state that doesn’t have a declining birth rate?). In North America and other places in the New World, millions claim Irish ancestry and take extreme pride in their roots.
St. Patrick’s Day in Canada
Maybe that’s why we take St. Patrick’s Day so seriously in Canada. Newfoundland and Labrador, a province almost exclusively made up of Irish descendants, is one of two places in the whole world outside of Ireland that treats St. Patrick’s Day as a public holiday (Montserrat is the other).
Montreal boasts the longest-running St. Patrick’s Day parade in the country (since 1824) and Toronto maintains a very large and representative St. Patrick’s Day Parade every year, with floats from nearly every county in Ireland.
But how do these festivities hold up to the main event in the founding nation? In Dublin, St. Patrick’s celebrations aren’t just for the day (although they do enjoy a public holiday each March 17). This year, from March 14-18, the St. Patrick’s Festival is a multi-day celebration of “Irish-ness.”
Recently, Dublin has taken more of a multicultural approach to the holiday, including adding representatives from ethnic communities around the country — an acknowledgment that you don’t need red hair and freckles to be a proud citizen. During the several days of parties, there will be a mixture of cultural, food, drink, and family events, including an Irish Craft Beer Village, musical street performances, educational events at Dublin’s museums and landmarks and, of course, the massive St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Throughout the rest of the country, you’ll find parades in every town and village. Children will paint their faces orange, green and white. Groups of old men in tweed coats will share juicy bits of gossip as the floats go by, and tiny pubs will overflow with young women dressed to the nines and men in jeans and Irish jerseys. St. Patrick’s Day festivities will be especially jovial this year with The Gathering also taking place.
Gone are green beer and the general idea that St. Patrick’s Day is little more than a great excuse to have a massive party. To participate in St. Patrick’s Day in a small Irish town or village is to experience what the holiday is truly meant to be — a day to celebrate Irish culture and, to a lesser extent in recent years, Irish Catholicism.
Me? I’ll be in Toronto this year, but look forward to future years where I will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with my neighbours and family at our local in good ol’ Tuohy. There’s really no better way.
More St. Patrick’s Day in Canada Coverage on Vacay.ca
In 2012, Vacay.ca spotlighted the 17 best Irish bars across Canada as we counted down to St. Patrick’s Day from March 1. Find out more about each of them as you plan your celebrations this year.
McVeigh’s, Toronto, Ontario (video)
Durty Nelly’s, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Failte, Waterloo, Ontario (video)
The Irish Times, Victoria, British Columbia
Shamrock City, St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador
King’s Head, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Ceili’s Pub, Vancouver, British Columbia
Dora Keogh, Toronto, Ontario (video)
O’Byrne’s Irish Pub, Edmonton, Alberta
O’Hanlon’s, Regina, Saskatchewan
Hurley’s, Montreal, Quebec
The Auld Spot Pub, Toronto, Ontario (video)
Darcy McGee’s, Ottawa, Ontario
Doolin’s Irish Pub, Vancouver British Columbia
The James Joyce Pub, Calgary, Alberta
The Inn of Olde, St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador 2012
The Irish Embassy, Toronto, Ontario (video)