How is Bristol celebrating St Patrick’s day?

Today and over the weekend people in Bristol will be celebrating the patron Saint of Ireland, but how did St Patrick’s day go from being a holy feast to the global phenomenon it has become?

As the day falls during lent many would have given up indulging in alcohol and certain foods. However traditionally Lenten restrictions were lifted to commemorate the 17 March. People were free to drink and eat whatever they desired on St Patrick’s day.

The patron St Patrick displayed in the chapel. Photo credit: Chloe Dell
The patron St Patrick displayed in the chapel. Photo credit: Chloe Dell

This tradition has been taken a step further, a day that’s been adopted all over the world. Most notably in America where the Chicago river is dyed green.

1.5 million people emigrated from Ireland to America from 1845-1855. The emigration was partly due to the famine which had already claimed millions of lives. The promise of work and a better life attracted many to begin a new chapter in the US.

Amelia Dunford is Pastoral assistant to the Priest of St Patrick’s church and President of the Bristol Irish society. She spoke about what the day means to her, and those around the world.

The close knit community of St Patrick’s makes the celebration a joint affair with school children from St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School performing in a concert including Irish dancing, along with displays celebrating the life of St Patrick.

Unfortunately for the Irish living in the UK, “St Paddy’s” isn’t a bank holiday. That makes the celebrations over the weekend even the more reminiscent of home.

“I just think everyone wants to think of home at some stage and St Patrick’s day is as good a day as any.”

As part of the Bristol Irish society Amelia is heavily involved in the organisation festivities.

The society will be holding a dance and a parade on Sunday 19 March  that will start in St Patrick’s parish with flags representing the 32 counties of Ireland.

St Patrick’s day is trending already online with all kinds of celebrations taking place.

However some people are using St Patrick’s day to discuss political and social issues.

Sophie Walker is the leader of the Women’s Equality Party in the UK. ‘Repeal the 8th’ is an abortion rights campaign calling for the repeal of the 8th amendment  to the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland. The amendment recognises the right to life of an unborn child.

This effectively is a constitutional ban on abortion and continues to be a controversial talking point amongst campaigners. Protests have already taken place in Dublin and are no doubt set to continue.

Related links:

‘Bristol Irish Society’ (Facebook)

St Patricks Catholic Primary School (Facebook)

St Patricks Church, Redfield

Repeal the 8th (Facebook)


What are your St Patrick’s Day plans?  Let us know on Twitter @UWEWired, on our Facebook page ‘Bristol Wired’ or by simply commenting below.

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