The Emerald Isle: St Patrick’s Day and Other Gems of Ireland

St. Patrick’s Day, like Cinco de Mayo, is one of those holidays that we Americans lose our minds over, without knowing exactly what we’re celebrating. While I’m not one to say no to a celebration, I also work at a library, so why not learn as we go? Lucky for you, this blog post won’t just teach you about St. Patrick’s Day but consider this your HCPL’s Guide to the best bits of Ireland.  

St Patrick’s Day  

Born in the late 4th century, St. Patrick is the Patron Saint of Ireland, but did you know he wasn’t Irish? He didn’t arrive in the country until he was 16 years old. He became interested in Christianity in his adult life and is believed to have converted the whole of Ireland. He is honored on the day he died, March 17th. There are many legends surrounding his life, but perhaps the best one is that he used the three leaves of the native Irish clover, the Shamrock, to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity. 

Now to the good stuff...  

The Scenery 

Ireland's beauty is uncanny. I was fortunate enough to study there in 2018. This picture was taken during a school field trip to Kylemore Abbey in County Galway. Kylemore Castle was built in the late 1800s but is now run by the Benedictine community. It's one of Ireland's top tourist destination spots.  

The Language 

  • English and Irish are the two official languages of Ireland.  
  • The Irish language (Gaeilge), which is a Celtic language, has been spoken in Ireland since before 300 BCE. It is one of the oldest and most historically written languages in the world.  
  • There is no word for “yes” or “no” in the Irish language. You convey it through verbs. For example,

Ar mhaith leat dul chuig scannán liom san oíche amárach? 

Would you like to go to a film with me tomorrow night?  

Ba mhaith / Níor mhaith  

I would like / I wouldn’t like (Or in other words “yes” and “no.”) 

  • Communities that speak Irish as their first language are referred to collectively as the Gaeltacht.   


The Irish people, like anyone else, use slang in their everyday language. Here are some of the best words and phrases I’ve heard, both during my travels and through Irish television.  

  • Eejit – Idiot  
  • Craic – Fun  
  • Class - Brilliant  
  • Cracker – Even more brilliant  
  • Boke – Vomit  
  • Cack attack – Freaking out  
  • Wain – Child 
  • Catch yourself on – Don't be ridiculous  

The Cranberries 

Remember these iconic song lyrics, “What’s in your head, in your head? Zombie, zombie, zombie...?” This song was from Irish rock band The Cranberries, most famous in the 90’s. Fun fact, their debut album, Everybody Else Is Doing It So Why Can’t We? was released 30 years ago this month. 


Now, we wouldn’t be much of a library if we didn’t talk about books. Here are just a few written by some of my favorite Irish authors.  

Normal People, 2018 by Sally Rooney.  

One Hundred Names, 2012 by Cecelia Ahern. 

Brooklyn, 2009 by Colm Tóibín.

The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer.  

Dracula, 1897 by Bram Stocker. 

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and the rest of The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.   

Last but not least, Derry Girls 

Channel 4’s hit television show, Derry Girls was created by Lisa McGee in 2018 and inspired by her teenage years in the 90’s. The show follows cousins Erin Quinn and Orla McCool, their friends Claire Devlin, Michelle Mallon, and Michelle’s cousin, and only male of the group, James Maguire. The five friends frequently find themselves in comedic situations despite the political unrest happening around them. The setting for the show is the final years of the Northern Ireland Conflict, a period of violence that lasted a century. The show has three seasons, and its final season aired on Netflix in the US last year. 

I will never stop raving about this show. Its blend of humor and sentimentality is sure to make you cry, either in fits of laughter or sobs. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I made Derry Girls my entire personality for an entire summer, and if you’re going to do anything this St. Patrick’s Day, it should at least involve binging this gem.  

Well, that’s all the Irish facts I can throw at you in one blog. So, in the words of one Michelle Mallon, “You’re a Derry Girl now...”