Irish on Ionia returns

Celebrated street festival back after a three-year hiatus
Irish on Ionia courtesy photo

The street festival “Irish on Ionia” is expected to draw 15,000 revelers to a three-block stretch of Ionia Ave. Saturday, March 18. Featuring Irish-themed food, drinks, and entertainment, it’s expected to be the largest St. Patrick’s Day event in Michigan.

With all the hoopla that HopCat has devoted to sponsoring this celebration, the origins of this day of indulgence begs some exploration.

Did you know St. Patrick wasn’t Irish at all? Nor was his given name Patrick. He was born “Maewyn Succat” in Roman Britain in the 4th century and, following a raid of his family’s estate by Irish marauders, taken to the Emerald Isle at age 16, where he spent six years as a slave to a Druid master.

Street performer, Irish on Ionia courtesy photo

Forced to shepherd animals alone at night, as the legend goes, God spoke to him in a dream, inspiring him to escape. Patrick journeyed 200 miles to the coast and made his getaway on a ship. Back in Britain at his family home (reckoned by scholars to have been anywhere from South Wales to Scotland), he dreamed of a written message from the very people who had enslaved him: “Come to us, O holy youth, and walk among us.”

Heeding the message of the dream, Maewyn Succat made his way to a monastery in the city of Auxerre (France) and became a disciple of St. Germain. He became a priest, and was given the Christian name, Patricius. He returned to Ireland during the reign of Pope Celestine – not to drive out snakes (there were none), but – as the Second Bishop of Ireland, succeeding Saint Palladius. He died on March 17, 561 A.D.

St. Patrick’s Day began as a religious feast day to commemorate his death. Until the 1700s, it was a somber religious occasion; a day to abstain from work and attend Mass, celebrated almost exclusively in Ireland. Over time it evolved into an occasion for people observing Lent to set aside restrictions on food and alcohol consumption to partake in the Feast of St. Patrick.

So, there you have it: The reason we indulge (and some over-indulge) on St. Patrick’s Day…let the shenanigans begin!

Irish on Ionia starts Saturday, March 18 at 10 a.m. Among the live musical performers are Celtic band Crossbow; a husband-and-wife Celtic Folk duo called Ironwood; an Irish pub band called the Leprecons and some baroque pop-rock from Wakefire. A Giant Leprechaun as the festival emcee, performances by the Motor City Irish Dance Company, Irish circus troops, live bagpipers and a slew of DJs round out the entertainment.


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