Shamrock, flutes and black bier on the streets of Munich.
Forget for a second that it’s a frigid mid-March afternoon. Try to ignore the whizzing wind too, although your nose feels like it might fall off any minute now. The sun has slashed its way through the ceiling of aubergine-colored clouds, and – perhaps even more oddly – the Germans are willing to behave like the court jester all of a sudden. There aren’t that many occasions during the year when both of these conditions are fulfilled simultaneously. So odds are, it’s St. Patrick’s Day again.
Several thousand friends of Ireland have gathered in Odeons Platz in the heart of Munich on Sunday, March 17, to celebrate the one party where you have to wear green to fit in. And, in an attempt to be as close to the Parade as possible, they’re defending their turf on the curb of Leopoldstrasse like it’s the family inheritance dating five generations back. If you want to sneak a peek, you have to be either:
a) taller than their Guinness hats,
b) willing to wiggle your way between their armpits, or
c) down on all fours.
I was neither, but all that tasty thick bier is bound to make people a little wobbly after a while. That is when I took my chance, stretching out my smartphone-carrying hand and thrusting it in front of the front-liners. At last the parade arrived, complete with drums, leprechauns, dancers, bagpipes and flags. A long-haired fellow dressed as St. Patrick in bishop’s garments opened this procession, which always includes the blessing of the shamrock, the Irish national symbol. Marching right past us came people in traditional gaelic clothes, skinny ceili dancers on tiptoes, enormous, purple-faced and fur-clad warriors brandishing swords, and people dressed as sheep, baahing their way through the ranks.
As the parade drew to an end, throngs of revelers began to line up for black bier, bringing the waiting time up to a staggering 20 minutes. What better indication of a good mood than people willing to queue 20 whole minutes for a glass of bier?… After a few greetings from the guests of honor, it was time to get the party started with Caladh Nua, Blackie O’Connel and Connor Keane, Bunoscionn, Mutefish, the Munich Ceili Band, and the Tir na nOg dancing ensemble among the highlights. Here’s a taster of what they can do.
The Munich celebration of the Irish National Day will continue with an Irish Mass in the St. Michael’s church at 18:00. And, to crown the festivities, the Allianz Arena will shine a bright green tonight – as part of a worldwide Irish “greening” offensive. Enjoy!