My first encounter with Ireland and its culture was rather trivial. I saw some Irish dancing and was fascinated by its rigor, energy, and emotional charge. I am not a dancer myself but Irish dances that I saw on TV made me want to get on my feet and start tap-dancing. Unfortunately, at our English classes at school we mostly study the history and traditions of Great Britain. We have not had any special lessons devoted to Ireland yet. I was surprised to learn that the Emerald Isle is a unique country with its own special culture, traditions and even its own peculiar and mysteriously sounding Gaelic language.
The first things I learnt about Irish culture made me want to explore more about this enchanting land of poets, musicians, dancers, saints, and scholars. Not only did I learn about Irish jigs and reels, but I also found out about great Irish poets, writers and playwrights, traditional music and songs, world famous musicians of Irish origin, St Patrick’s parades and parties. I have discovered to my own surprise that here in Russia I have been surrounded by Irish culture without even realizing that it is Irish.
I have learnt a new word “craic” which has no equivalent in the English language. Craic” is a mixture of fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. I suppose that this word alone can explain the nature of the Irish national character and be the answer to the question why Irish culture is so popular around the world. I suppose that the international popularity of Irish culture is closely connected with the history of the country and the national identity of its people. Firstly, the Irish have traditionally been “one of the biggest wandering peoples of the world. ” Due to mass emigration many countries got familiar with Irish cultural traditions a long time ago.
Thus, Irish culture is not confined to one piece of land. Secondly, Irish culture is adaptable, pliant, and flexible because of the openness and friendliness which run in the blood of the Irish. For example, anyone can participate in St Patrick’s parades or try Irish dancing. Other reasons of the world-wide obsession with the Irish culture are its beauty, freshness and originality. ‘Original’, ‘fresh’ and ‘beautiful’ are the words which come to my mind when I read a poem by W. B. Yeats, watch an Irish dance, see a colorful St Patrick’s procession or listen to Irish traditional music.
Despite its international popularity Irish culture on the whole retains its uniqueness and authentic spirit. That is why people around the world still see Ireland as a spiritual reservoir and turn to Irish culture when they need to feed their souls. In the era of globalization when boundaries between countries and nations are becoming more and more blurred, it is really important to preserve and promote your own culture. The Irish are very good at it. They have managed to make their culture a visiting card.
Although some people say that Irish culture is losing its authenticity and is becoming commercialized, I don’t see it that way. By weaving traditional elements into popular culture the Irish make more people familiar with their country. For instance, some popular songs by U2 contain traditional Irish melodies. Songs like ‘In the Name of the Father’, ‘Tomorrow’, or ‘The Ballad of Ronnie Drew’ are really Irish despite their rock and pop style. The Riverdance and shows of Michael Flatley revolutionized Irish dance culture by introducing new elements, colorful costumes and even adding features of other dance cultures into the shows.
Some people might argue that it was a change for the worse, but this was the change that made Irish dances so extremely popular around the world. Being a commercial event, St Patrick’s parades popularize Irish traditions among people of all nationalities worldwide. Our first encounter with Ireland may start with a popular thing like a Riverdance show, a traditional song “Whisky in the Jar”, or a green shamrock leaf on St Patrick’s Day. But these are the things which make us want to explore more. That is why I would like to finish with the Irish slogan, ‘Eire go Brach! ’ Ireland Forever!