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St Patrick's Day: Fun Facts & Irish Phrases to Help You Celebrate

We love celebrating different cultures and languages from around the world here at Tandem. And on St Patrick’s Day, 17th March, we turn to a green island in the Northern Hemisphere with unique cultural heritage and incredible national language… Ireland! St Patrick’s Day is a huge celebration of all things Irish and is famous across the world too, particularly in places with a large Irish diaspora. It’s also a chance to find out more about Ireland’s national language, Irish Gaelic, or Gaeilge.

Here at Tandem, we believe that the best way to learn a language is to actually speak it! That’s why we’ve developed an awesome app that allows members to connect with native speakers and practice 150+ languages. It’s not just about learning from each other, it’s also about having fun while practicing languages together.

What is Irish Gaelic (Gaeilge)?

Gaeilge shares status with English as an official language in Ireland, but it is designated as Ireland’s only national language. Though English may be what you hear spoken on the street (in Ireland’s major cities at least), Gaeilge is the historic language of the Irish people and is steadily growing in use again through strong support of the Irish government. Some fun facts about Gaeilge:

  • It is the native language of just under 80,000 native speakers in Ireland and Northern Ireland, but is the second language of millions more;
  • Gaeilge has only 11 irregular verbs, compared with over 100 in English;
  • There is no word for ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in Gaeilge;
  • Gaeilge uses the grammatical structure Verb-Subject-Object (VSO). Only 8% of the world’s languages are structured like this.

So, basically: while English will help you get by in Ireland, a few words or phrases in Gaeilge are likely to go straight to the heart of the locals! And there’s no better time to start than St Patrick’s Day.

What is St Patrick’s Day?

St Patrick’s Day honours St Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint, who died on March 17th in the year 461. St Patrick’s Day has been celebrated as a national holiday in Ireland since 1903, but many people in all parts of the world also come together on March 17th to celebrate Ireland’s rich cultural heritage.  

Who was St Patrick?

Although St Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, he actually was born in Roman Britain and was taken from Britain to Ireland as a slave. He later escaped to a monastery and started to work as a Christian missionary, and is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland. Over time he has become a national symbol of Ireland and its culture.  

Where is St Patrick’s Day celebrated?

While St Patrick’s Day is a public holiday in Ireland, today it is a truly global celebration. This is partly due to the Great Famine in Ireland in the 1840s, which caused thousands of Irish people to emigrate all over the world. As they settled in different countries, they brought with them their rich cultural heritage and tradition.

How do people celebrate it?

Although it began as a religious festival, nowadays St Patrick’s Day is celebrated by people of all nationalities and is primarily a celebration of Irish culture, language and traditions. Classic symbols of St Patrick’s Day include shamrocks, green clothing and luck - often shown by finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow!

Strange but true: the largest St Patrick’s Day festival is not actually in Ireland, but in New York, USA. Around 200,000 people take part in the parade, attracting crowds of over 3 million spectators each year!

To celebrate it ourselves, we’ve added some special St Patrick’s Day cards to the app for you to share with your partner. You can send a St Patrick’s Day card by tapping the holiday icon when you are in the messaging tab.

Find out how to send a Holiday Card on Tandem here.

holiday cards st patrick

Here are some short phrases in Irish to try out with your Tandem partner or at a St Patrick’s Day celebration!

  • Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit! - Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!
  • Cá mbeidh tú ag fliuchadh na seamróige? - Where will you be drowning your shamrock? (i.e. where will you be going for a drink?)
  • Sláinte ‘s táinte - Health and wealth!
  • Pionta Guinness, le do thoil - A pint of Guinness please.
  • Go n-éirí an t-ádh leat - May luck rise to you.
  • Ádh na n-Éireannach - Luck of the Irish.

Thanks to Siún Ní Dhuinn for her help with getting the Gaeilge right! You can check out her website for bilingual English and Irish writing here.

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