Ukraine Turns Green as it Celebrates St. Patrick’s Day
Kyiv, March 19, 2012. Ukraine welcomed its first days of spring weather with an awe-inspiring celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day. This well-known Irish holiday takes on a different expression in every region it’s celebrated. While in many English speaking countries people organize parades devoted to the holiday, the Ukrainians made a point to fill the local Irish pubs and celebrate with passion and excitement nonetheless.
Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine is scattered with a plethora of Irish pubs. It would not be an exaggeration to say that each and every one of them was packed full with green-loving visitors this Saint Patrick’s Day. The popularity of the holiday was achieved not entirely by the Irish community of Kyiv; which is relatively small, but instead by Ukrainians themselves. It was both the Ukrainians and Irish people that expressed excitement to wear green and savor Guinness beer.
Since dancing is a large part of celebratory traditions, students of the Ukrainian school of Irish dance Shannon River were among the performing groups who presented their fascinating techniques. “We decided to study Irish dance simply because we liked it. We took lessons from teachers from Ireland and Scotland,” said Kateryna Maliarchuk the Director of the Shannon River.
Compared to the yearly Saint Patrick’s Day parade commencing in Dublin and the annual tradition of dying the Chicago River green in the United States, the Irish population in Kyiv celebrated this holiday in local pubs the Ukrainian way. Many pub visitors claim that the Irish and Ukrainians have a lot in common when it comes to partying. Shamus Murphy an Irishman from Dublin who works in Kyiv commented on the celebratory similarities between Ukraine and Ireland, “The only difference between Ukraine and Ireland, when it comes to the Saint Patrick’s Day celebration, is that Ukrainians tend to eat and drink, while in Ireland they just drink.” Living in Ukraine’s capital has given Mr. Murphy plenty of time to experience the similarities and differences between his homeland and Ukraine. He claims that instead of traditional Irish Guinness beer he prefers local Ukrainian Slavutych. “It’s very similar here: everybody likes kartoplia (Ukrainian for potato), we like kapusta (cabbage) and we like svynyna (bacon). We have very much in common,” said Shamus Murphy.
Historically, Saint Patrick was known for coming to Ireland in order to Christianize the Irish from their native polytheism. He used a shamrock to explain the Christian doctrine of trinity to the Irish people. At first the color associated with Saint Patrick’s holiday was blue but after a few years it became green, which correlates better with the natural surroundings of Ireland. “Our nature is very, very green because it rains a lot. And the reason that people wear green is associated with that,” said Robert Hartigan from Limerick, Ireland. In the early 17th century Saint Patrick’s day was made an official feast holiday when the Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol were lifted.
Considering the fact that Saint Patrick’s Day has religious roots, nowadays the holiday lost its religious meaning and became a great day to have a lot of fun. “To be honest, people in Ireland get very drunk on Saint Patrick’s Day. Like you can see here [at the pub in Kyiv] the place is full and people are enjoying one another,” said Robert.