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Green, White & Gold (Absinthe, Malibu & Tequila): A beginner’s guide to Alcoholism

Welcome to your cultural education lesson number 3 for Northern Ireland: my Nation’s Celebrations. Ireland has a few great traditions and given the drinking stereotype of my country, alcohol does play a role in many of them but of course not everything we celebrate has you reaching for the Guinness (although it may seem like I’m about to prove that wrong haha). Nevertheless most of these celebrations are about family and community so enjoy your reading.

We like our themed parties!!!!

Firstly I will start with the most widely known Irish tradition; St. Paddy’s Day. I’ve been told that here in the US of A, St. Paddy’s Day is very Americanised such as people dressing as leprechauns in shopping malls (which is something you would NEVER see back home) and people attempting to convince each other of who is more Irish. Bitch please lemme see your damn passport and we’ll see who’s more inherently Irish?! The extent of some people’s “ability” to switch on and off their “heritage” for one day at a moment’s notice never ceases to amaze me. Apologies for another classic digression by yours truly. Back on topic, Leprechauns are not really a thing back at home, despite how hard foreigners try to make it a thing. From experience, my St. Paddy’s day involves waking up to a liquid breakfast and then meeting your friends in town at any (and I really mean ANY) bar to have a novelty “green pint”. Then we would buy a few bottles and seek out suitable parties in an area of Belfast called “The Holylands” (a part of Belfast which was/is most commonly associated with the Troubles. If you don’t know your way around or the religiosity of the areas here it can be a dangerous place). Then you would all go out to dinner somewhere together (I’m not talking the Ritz here, I mean sloppy Pizza Hut or McDonalds) and then have “pre-swall” (our specific word for pre-drinks or pre-gaming) at a friend’s house before joining the long line outside your favourite club. That is; if you haven’t “faded” (a state of near-unconsciousness due to excessive alcohol consumption). St Paddy’s Day is a very well-celebrated holiday and hugely communal, however lately there seems to be a common theme of riots occurring in The Holylands each year. Despite all this seeming “danger” I’ve mentioned above, St Paddy’s Day is very fun and perfectly safe if you know how to navigate the day. Oh! And one thing I forgot to mention is that we dye the rivers green and some people (myself included) dye their hair green and wear all green. It’s like you’ve been assaulted by a Jade Crayola ™

St. Patrick's Day - 2013. Not a Leprechaun in sight!

St. Patrick's Day - 2012

About a month later occurs Lent which is a Catholic tradition whereby you fast (these are the people who have never eaten at Boojums. Is there heaven on Earth? Yes there is!), or give up luxuries in order to pay for your penitence. It occurs six weeks before Easter Sunday and not all Catholics in Northern Ireland practice this tradition however most of those I know do. As I don’t identify with any particular religion, I do not celebrate this event for its religious meaning; however instead choose to use it as a test for self-control (I’m currently on a 7-year losing streak).

Now let us fast-forward a few months to the 12th of July; one of the most controversial holidays in Northern Ireland. As briefly mentioned two WWN articles ago (my new favourite unit of time), the 12th of July symbolizes the victory of the Protestant King William of Orange over the Catholic King James II at the “Battle of the Boyne”. This involved the pillaging and raping of catholic cities in Northern Ireland, and the eventual settling of Protestant communities here.  The celebrations involve formal parades, wearing particular uniform, traditional “Orangemen” music, and gathering around the bonfires with your families and watching firework displays. Since the victory back in the 16th Century, almost every year there has been violence and controversy. I loathe this holiday with a passion and everything it has now evolved to be about because in my own personal opinion it is now an excuse for certain groups of Protestants to vocalize their hatred for Catholicism, and riots always ensue. As mentioned in my first piece of writing there is now a common history of some extremist Protestant factions burning Catholic effigies and models of famous/infamous Catholic figures/individuals. This usually causes counter-violence which just snowballs for the rest of the year, and so I believe it is better for native Northern Ireland-ers who wish to avoid all this drama and bloodshed to simply plan a holiday abroad during this time. I hear Cyprus is pretty enticing around that time. If you want to learn more I would suggest this Wikipedia link – that way you would also get a more objective opinion rather than my jilted and probably ignorant views. If ignorance is bliss then I’m in ecstasy.


Halloween is more or less the same in Ireland: a pagan tradition that most people have adopted as an excuse to party and wear inappropriately promiscuous clothing whilst still being regarded as socially acceptable (God I sound boring, but I’m definitely guilty of this myself. Is “YOLO” still relevant in a WWN article??). For the student population it can definitely be a very messy night but we still love the traditions of our youth like trick-or-treating and scaring the S*** out of the neighbour kids. One thing that we do not do much at Halloween is the visiting of Haunted Houses. I experienced my first one just before Halloween at “Fright Town” in Portland which was hilarious. It was scary at times but I just resorted to trying to hug the actors and making a mockery of the whole thing. HOWEVER, immediately after I went to “House of Shadows” in Gresham. Now THAT was terrifying! These nightmares happen in a shady, dark-alley building in the middle of nowhere and they make you sign a waiver saying that if you get hurt, experience emotional trauma, or die… They are not responsible. Also it is a CONTACT event, therefore they are allowed to throw you around and abuse you; and indeed they do. It is a fun (depending on how you define fun)  judge of how well you would fair under torture. I did not survive haha. Four of us entered the building and within 20 minutes only three of us exited. Two of my friends left with brief trauma (one is now particularly sensitive to the sound of chainsaws), and I left with a crushed foot and was limping for a week or so. Haphazardly the three of us ran as fast as we could and did not look back until we were eventually reunited with our friend. I will say nothing more in case anybody wants to experience it (of which I would encourage if you are a hardy person, however do not wear clothing that will trip you up or fall off (like heels or hats; you’d be surprised to hear of some of the unconventional fashion choices of some people that caused their downfall)).

Halloween - 2013

Now onto the next (and my ultimate, favourite holiday), Christmas!!!
Christmas, from what I’ve heard, seems to be more or less the same here as it is back home, expect we tend to have a more religious attachment to our celebrations. We have an advent calendar which involves the 24 days prior to Christmas whereby there is a chocolate (and fun fact, bible-verse, or picture) hidden in little “windows” on each day of the calendar so that you receive a treat each day of December before Christmas. I have never grown up with them but have always been envious of those that do. A fairly traditional menu for Christmas dinner includes either a Goose or Turkey (and gammon ham in my household) with, roasted and boiled potatoes (Irish meals often include potatoes prepared several ways because you know, it’s not like we’re running out of potatoes anytime soon), brussell sprouts (the Russian roulette of the veggie world), carrots, cauliflower, parsnips and any other family favourites, followed by my Granny’s speciality: Christmas pudding. Her secret is that she douses it in enough brandy to replicate a 12th of July bonfire. True Story. Other Christmas treats include my Granny’s vanilla shortbread, mincepies (if you don’t know what this is then you need to sample it immediately. I refer you to google maps to access your nearest ethnic foods store), and a large bottle (not glass) of Bailey’s Irish Cream Liquor. These are a must!

My friend Evelyn and myself wearing my family's Christmas stockings

We also get a lot of snow over Christmas

No seriously! A LOT!!!!

hmmmm Im getting kinda thirsty...

Advent Calendar

New Year’s Celebrations are pretty much the same; except we have a larger drinking culture and therefore make more excuses to drink (e.g. we have “Arthur’s Day on the 23rd September in order to make an excuse to drink Guinness). One interesting and recent news story (10/29/14) was when an Irish woman applied for a job in Korea, and they rejected her stating they don’t hire Irish Individuals due to the “alcoholism nature of your culture”. Discriminatory of course, however it will be interesting to see how this story develops. I have attached the link below.


Back home our legal drinking age is 18, and we do have a large drinking culture (particularly binge-drinking) and if you ever get the joy of experiencing a club anywhere in Europe, then (depending on the club) it can be pretty wild, relative to what I’ve experienced in the states. I myself am guilty of being a clubbing addict, and whilst at university in Northern Ireland I would go out between 2 and 4 times a week, and this last summer would party 2 or 3 times a week and often (but admittedly not always – woops) get up for 6am work THAT MORNING. We are all self-taught experts in curing hangovers!! You have my email attached for tips 😉
If you are looking to experience a club in Europe then I would actually NOT recommend Northern Ireland because our clubs close at between 1-2, whereas in the rest of the UK and in most of wider Europe, clubs would usually close at 3am, 4am, 5am etc. That’s why I’ll be touring the club scene around Manchester come summer 2015 🙂

Ireland itself has it’s own special brew called Poitín which is traditionally made from potatoes. I have never had it myself but know that it is illegal in some places due to it’s incredibly high potency.

Typical night out in a bar in Belfast. 6 Shots = £6 (How could we resist?!)

If you are sensible and remain safe then you can have the time of your life in our drinking culture, and do bear in mind that the drinking culture is not just created by the youth: in fact, in Northern Ireland most deaths caused by drinking are by individuals aged 45-54 (Alcoholandyouni, 2012). The drinking culture and nightclubs are one of the biggest things I miss most from back home but don’t panic folks, I’m still getting by with the Ram and Speakeasy, so I’ll not go crazy and leave Willamette just yet. I’m currently just counting down the days until I can go to the liquor store and buy my festive bottle of Baileys on the 1st December. Perhaps I should make my own liquid-themed advent calendar this year. Hmmmmmmm *snacks lips* Sorry, I’m day-dreaming over here. Until next time friends, drink responsibly and have loads of fun!

This sight is seen as an accomplishment. And that it was 🙂

Interesting choice of name

Study tips from yours truly

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