Apparently a love of Ireland is alive and well in Göttingen. On St. Patrick’s Day in Germany, folks come out in droves to celebrate all things Irish. Not ones to miss the holiday festivities, Travis and I joined a group of folks from his lab to see what the town has in store for those looking for fun festivities.
Meeting up in the town center, we walked around the Easter Market while waiting for everyone to arrive. Though smaller than the big Christmas Market that is set up in the square through December, the Easter Market is similar, with food concession stands, arts and crafts stands, a small carousel, and even live bunnies in a festive booth. We had to laugh at some of the displays, particularly one with a stuffed bunny mechanically rocking back and forth laying eggs.
Why would they have a bunny laying plastic eggs? Everyone knows Easter bunnies lay chocolate eggs. Sheesh.
Once our entire group arrived, we walked to the Church of St. Michael to attend Catholic Mass. We’re not Catholic, but it’s clearly the happenin’ place in town on St. Patrick’s Day.
Surprised to hear the service was in English, I was still completely unprepared when another patron turned to me to shake hands in camaraderie, addressing me in English.
I realized how much I’ve become accustomed to feeling like a shipwrecked survivor on a desolate island – a result of the inevitable isolation from not speaking German. Travis speaks English every day at work, but I miss hearing our own language. I miss it in the streets. I miss the inane background sound from US television shows. Most of all, I miss the easy banter with other Americans who understand our obscure references to pop culture and silly jokes that most non-native English speakers tend to take literally. It was really nice to be part of an English-speaking celebration, surrounded by other expats.
After Communion, the entire congregation stood to take part in a rousing rendition of The Wild Rover, an old Irish folk song that’s typically a drinking song.
Not surprisingly, some of the lyrics were altered a bit for the church service.
The original version tells the story of an Irishman who’s been away from home for far too long, roving and spending all of his money on “whiskey and beer.” Upon returning home, he visits his local alehouse, claiming to be broke and asking for a drink on credit. When the barmaid denies him, he dumps a handful of gold coins on the counter, to which she immediately responds with an offer of her finest spirits. Dismissing her, he announces he’ll seek out a pub elsewhere before returning to his parents to beg their forgiveness, so sure is he they’ll grant it as they have before with the promise that this time, his roving days are really over.
It was the perfect song considering that immediately following the service, folks spilled from the church into the street in a procession leading directly to a local Irish pub.
After Catholic Mass at St. Michael’s, a parade through town starts at the church. In a sea of green balloons and black and green top hats, our group fell in line behind the bagpipe players. Following them for several blocks, we ended up at the Irish Pub. a place where “Life’s too short not to be Irish!”
Popular year round, not just on St. Paddy’s Day, the pub is open late. It regularly features live bands, and the one other time we visited with friends, it was packed with people.
Finding a table outside, we promptly ordered a round of the famed St. Paddy’s “green beer,” rumored to be Guinness with a splash of Sprite and green food coloring. Our little band of expats spent the rest of the evening laughing and sipping our bitter green brew.
We weren’t able to visit the Emerald Isle for St. Paddy’s Day, but at least the Irish brought the party to us in Germany.