Detroit Irish Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in New Ways

When I gave birth to my third daughter via C-section, the doctors offered me a choice of what I would like to listen to during the surgery. I didn’t hesitate to choose St. Patrick’s Day Radio on Pandora. The doctors were a bit surprised, but enjoyed the lesson in the songs we sing when we Irish gather. The songs I grew up hearing my uncle play as the leader of an Irish band are as much a part of my heritage as my green eyes. 

Today, although celebrations look very different from other years, I will take the opportunity to continue to teach my three daughters about their Irish heritage.

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day at Home

First, we will put on some of that wonderful Irish music and cook a traditional meal.

I will forgo the Dutch oven or slow cooker for my corned beef and instead use my InstantPot, which I prefer over the aforementioned methods of preparing a corned beef brisket. Not only is it quicker and simpler, the meat is tender and delicious. We also will skip the cabbage, but my kids love baby carrots, also conveniently and quickly prepared in the InstantPot. Click here for a recipe that will show you how to cook the brisket and then your vegetables right in the same liquid in your InstantPot.

My three little helpers and I will also bake Irish soda bread. Soda bread came to Ireland during a time when many families were starving and needed a very basic and inexpensive recipe. Today, it is a symbol of celebration and is very popular for St. Patrick’s Day. We use a traditional recipe that has four very basic ingredients, although I add raisins to my recipe.

We will also take the time today to remember the beloved elder-women of our family whom we recently lost to the pandemic. The Irish are a hardy bunch, but many in our community suffered great losses this year. It is very difficult for us to forgo the traditional “wakes” that help us celebrate the lives of those we have lost.

It has been a difficult year for the Irish community in Detroit.

Not being able to gather in groups has sadly interrupted many annual events. The United Irish Societies, which puts on the Detroit St. Patrick’s Day Parade, was once again forced to cancel the event due to safety precautions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This is the second year in a row for cancellation of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, a tradition that stood for 61 years prior to 2020. Last year’s cancellation left establishments that had already placed orders for food and beverages to celebrate parade day and St. Patrick’s Day left with surpluses as the expected 80-100,000 revelers did not come to Corktown.

When the Irish do not march down Michigan Avenue on the Sunday before St. Patrick’s Day in March, a vital part of our community is affected.

The Irish Dance Community is having to find new ways to adapt. They are continuing to practice virtually until competitions and performances can resume. This has hit local dance schools like the Ardan Academy and Motor City Irish Dance hard.

The UIS (United Irish Societies) did not hold its annual competition for the Queen of the UIS. The LAOH also did not hold their scholarship competition, The Court of St. Brigid. Both of these competitions have been an annual tradition for over half a century.

If you have the means to support your local Irish organizations, I know they would appreciate the patronage.

For those of you looking to get out of the house, restaurants and bars in Corktown are open at 50% capacity. Click here for a great list of restaurants offering special St. Patrick’s Day events and menus today. Our family always stops by the Gaelic League of Detroit when we are on Michigan Avenue,
and, in Redford we are patrons of the Detroit AOH. The AOH has a diaper-changing station in its handicapped restroom and is a family-friendly environment. 

The Irish community looks forward to 2022 and resuming the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

UIS President Mike Kelly said, “We’re looking forward to the biggest and most successful Detroit St. Patrick’s Day Parade in our history on Sunday, March 13, 2022. We’ll transform Corktown, Detroit’s oldest neighborhood, and Michigan Avenue, home to industry, entrepreneurs, and more, into a celebration of Irish history, culture, and opportunity.” 

This year, we will celebrate, albeit differently.

We will reflect on the celebrations we are missing from years past, and will look forward to a great celebration with our Irish community in 2022. And, we will certainly be enjoying our Irish music!

If you are looking for tips for attending next year, check out Molly’s 2020 write-up, An Irish Mom’s Guide to Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Metro Detroit, which published just as events were being canceled. 


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