St Patrick's Day is the feast day for St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, and marks the anniversary of his death. Originally a simple Saint's day like any other, today it is a celebration of all things Irish all over the world. For many Irish people it is a day for national pride, and for many non-Irish people it is a day to wear novelty hats and horrifically butcher the Irish accent. For all, it is a day to drink Ireland's greatest exports; Whiskey and Guinness.
Did you know: every year in the USA, dozens of people are hospitalised on St. Patrick's Day due to the harmful effects of the dyes used to turn beer green. We recommend sticking with a nice pint of Guinness.
St. Patrick was a fifth century bishop, famous for banishing all snakes from Ireland like some sort of medieval bouncer (although naturalist Nigel Monaghan suggests that there were never any snakes in the first place). He also used the shamrock (or clover) to teach people about the holy trinity. The shamrock has since become a symbol for St Patrick's day, which is why you may see large novelty shamrocks all around town on this sacred day.
Did you know: James O'Mara. the Irish MP who made St Patrick's Day a national holiday in 1903, later regretted what he had done and passed a law requiring pubs to be shut on the 17th March. This wasn't repealed until the 1970s.
Celebrating in Oxford
The people of Oxford - town and gown alike- are always looking for an excuse to have a party, which is why there is always plenty going on Oxford over the St Patrick's Day weekend. Most pubs in the city show their Irish colours, with live music, sport, and drinking. See below for details of this year's Irish antics around Oxford.
St. Patrick's Day Fun
Did you know: Whisky is an English mispronunciation 'od Uisce beatha', which means 'Water of Life'. Clearly the Irish have got their priorities sorted out.
A Selection of Famous Irish Oxford Alumni
- Oscar Wilde, Magdalen
- G.E.M Anscombe, St Hughes
- Cecil Day-Lewis, Wadham
- Seamus Heaney, Magdalen
- Louis MacNeice, Merton
- Tom Paulin, Lincoln
- Sionhan Dowd, LMH
- Iris Murdoch, Somerville
- Jonathan Swift, Hertford
Did you know: Despite how many times they get mentioned in this article, Guinness aren't paying us any money. More's the pity.
Alwyn Collinson's Guide to Acting Irish
How to: Drink Whiskey
Many whisky drinkers, the awful snobs, refer to the malts of the Emerald Isle as “the Irish heresies”, which is a bit rich considering the Irish had change the spelling (adding the "e") to distinguish their fine whiskey from inferior, mass-produced Scottish whisky. Ignore the detractors, and try a splash of a fine Irish pot still whiskey (such as Redbreast or Green Spot), which has a unique spicy flavour, or a fine malt (Tyrconnell or Bushmill's). Irish malts are mostly produced without using peat in the malting process, which gives a smoother, less smokey flavour. Therefore, you can probably skip the (extremely pretentious) Highland tradition of alternating between sips of whisky and water, and take your "craythur" straight. If you must mix it with something, use a blend such as Jameson's; the stronger flavours will keep the taste of the whiskey.
Don't say “to be sure, to be sure”. Don't talk about “Jesus, Mary and Joseph”. And for God's sake, don't say “Begorrah”. Instead, take the example of the Irish government, which uses the St. Patrick's day festival to promote the speaking of Gaelic. To start you off, you're going to need to know Sláinte* (cheers!).*Pronounced "Slawn-cha". Thanks to TomDJG for this tip!
Whether it comes from a bottle, a keg, a can, or the cellar of an unsuspecting and inebriated landlord, a pint of Guinness is a beautiful thing to behold, and pouring it a rare skill, more art than science. Naturally, the company has therefore commissioned a study to tell us how it works. The "perfect pint" should take 119.53 seconds, the result of a time-consuming "double pour" method, designed to produce a creamy head that doesn't overflow the glass. I suggest you leave this difficult and technical job to your friendly local barperson, especially as the evening progresses.