It’s not difficult to be Irish abroad, especially not in Hungary. And especially not during the lead-up to St. Patrick’s Day. When he was writing in 1957, James Michener called Hungarians “the Irish of Eastern Europe”. In the years I’ve been here, I’ve seen so many similarities between the two peoples. We both have what WB Yeats describes as an “abiding sense of tragedy that sustains us through temporary periods of joy”. We both like to party. And we both like to talk.
Next week begins a series of events for everyone with a drop of Irish blood and those with a penchant for all things Irish. Far from what has become a drink-fuelled frenzy in other parts of the world, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Budapest are of a different standard altogether.
Kicking off on Wednesday 12 March is the final of the 2014 Gift of the Gab, a charity speech-slam that is now enjoying its fourth successful season. Five qualifying finalists compete to see who in Budapest has that unequivocally Irish trait, that ability to talk to just about anyone, just about anywhere, about just about anything.
The five hopefuls will each give a five-minute prepared speech on a topic of their choice and a three-minute impromptu on a topic suggested by the audience. Five judges chosen on the night will decide who is crowned the winner of the Gift of the Gab 2014. This year’s final takes place at the New Orleans Music Club on Lovag utca in District VI from 7.30pm. Tickets can be purchased from the venue (10am-5pm) and cost HUF 2,000-2,500 with an additional option for dinner. All proceeds go to the Irish-Hungarian Business Circle’s Give a Little charity campaign. See www.speechslam.com for more details.
On Sunday 16 March the annual St Patrick’s Day parade will set off from Szabadsag tér at 3.30pm. People start gathering about 2pm and, as the crowds amass, the craic kicks off. Leprechauns, Irish wolfhounds and other random characters dressed in green will mix and mingle as the anticipation grows. Then, in true parade fashion, with banners and bands, as many as two thousand people will wend their way through the city to end up at Instant, Nagymező utca 38 for a real Irish party including the three essential elements: ceoil (music), caint (chat) agus craic (and fun). Festivities will continue on into the night with the foot-stomping Hungarian Irish band Firkin. All you need to do is dress up, show up and bring a smile. See www.IHBC.hu for more details.
On Saturday 22 March the annual St Patrick’s Day Gala Dinner will be held at Le Meridien hotel in Budapest. In its seventh year, this annual event is a great opportunity to experience a real Irish-Hungarian night out. With a four-course Irish dinner, traditional Irish music and dance, it’s a night not to be missed. Tickets are on sale now from the Irish-Hungarian Business Circle or Le Meridien. Again, see www.IHBC.hu.
Whatever you’re after, St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Budapest will sort you out. Step out with the crowd and banish those winter blues by donning any one of the forty shades of green.
Mary Murphy is a freelance writer and public speaker who is rooting out her greenery in anticipation. Read more at www.stolenchild66.wordpress.com