FolkWorld article by Maria Chelnokova:

A Russian view on the Irish national holiday

When all celebrations, like New Year, February 23 and March 8, are behind and May holidays are still far away, one may loose his festive mood. But smart admirers of Irish culture have found the way to solve this problem. If you need an occasion for real fun which you will remember the whole year afterwards than don't hesitate to join to the Saint Patrick's Day celebration in Moscow in the middle of March. During the whole bright history of foreign celebrations that settled down in Russia there was never such sensation like that. Saint Patrick's Day is unbelievably popular among our compatriots.

Every year great processions of musicians are being arranged on the central street Arbat. Bagpipers, folk bands and actors, singing and dancing. Later in the evening all this crowd is moving to the pubs to have some beer, sing folk songs and dance till one drops. Nobody is just sitting on his place. If you have never heard inspirational Irish musical compositions before, and never seen huge happy crowds of Irish music fans in a club, dancing in a ring, then you certainly have to find time for it and you will never regret it. The sight is really bright: live music, surprising contests, dance show and exciting fighting on the stage will never leave you indifferent. Don't be astonished if you meet here married couples of Irish people wearing cozy sweaters. And right near them a few young pretty girls wearing traditional Irish outfit and showing incredible dancing pirouettes. And gentlemen wearing kilts are as common as young (and not quite young, too) people in jeans. Recently the number of admirers of "Lord of The Rings" and of role plays has joined this society. All of these celebrate Saint Patrick's Day in Moscow. There is a place for everyone - Saint Patrick attracts more and more people each year.


March 17, Saint Patrick.s Day, is in fact a death day of one of the most beloved and respected Irish saints. But exactly this day people usually spend having fun and bringing joy to others. But what would you expect from those Irish, who even during funerals do not cry but remember good and even funny stories about the deceased? Patrick was just an ordinary Irish shepherd. Then he went off the Ireland to Europe where he made a priest and learned the Christianity. One night he heard a voice in his sleep, and this voice called him back to Ireland. Rest of his life he dedicated to Christianity propagation among his compatriots. Thanks to Patrick paganism has been forced out. Besides he committed many miracles, for example, chased away all serpents from Ireland. After his death in March 461 thankful Irish people considered him their patron.


Essentially all this fun started 12 years ago, when Saint Patrick's Day has been mass celebrated in Moscow for the first time. All around the world this day is celebrated by the countries where Irish natives are present. And millions of people in all parts of the world join them. The whole world from Dublin to Moscow becomes Irish. For example in USA on this Saint Patrick's Day everything becomes green. There is a green beer in the pubs, green doughnuts in the shops, and in Chicago even the water in the river is being painted with green color. In Ireland itself festive parade takes place in 30 cities.

Citizens put on red wigs and green caps, which you can buy in shops, take flowerpots with .Shamrock (symbol of Ireland - three-leaved clover) and national flags. In the evening there is a firework and salute. And during all this time all people are impetuously having fun. And in Moscow Saint Patrick's Day is traditionally arranged in the biggest and most popular night clubs. This year's event remained in everyone's memory. Thanks to giant Tochka club.

All guests of grandiose festival on March 19 had an opportunity to celebrate new birth of the club, and also not forget about Saint Patrick. This means that loads of prizes, music and positive emotions is guaranteed!


Late evening of March 19th a grand festival under the name "St Patrick's Night" dedicated to Saint Patrick's Day took place in the club "Tochka" . In spite of the fact that St. Patrick's Day is traditionally an Irish holiday it is already for 12 years celebrated in Moscow in a big way.

The festival "St. Patrick's Night" can be considered as the largest event which is annually taking place in Moscow at date of Saint Patrick. For many reasons, among which is a place of event - one of the most capacious Moscow clubs, and the good organization of action, selection of musical groups based on any taste. Festival is usually visited by about 2000 persons - that is huge figure even for millions-strong Moscow, taking into consideration not too big popularity of traditional music in Moscow.

One of the recipes for the success of the Festival is that organizers always try to diversify the program as much as possible, inviting not only already well-known and popular groups, but also young and infamous, but, nevertheless, qualitative commands. And it is also great that that on the same stage, bands are not only playing Irish traditional music differently arranged, but also Russian, Galician, Karelian, Moldavian… As St. Patrick.s Day celebration gathers associates all around the world, so the traditional festival "St Patrick's Night" becomes for everybody a common ground for cultures of different countries. To put it briefly, on a stage of festival "St. Patrick's Night" it is possible to see a rare alloy of completely different musical traditions, and it is one of the main factors that brings together a festival audience of the most wide range of age and social status.

This year as usual, to get into club was possible only by joining a huge queue, or having taken an advantage, for example, journalistic privileges. At the entrance to the club a coupon for pint free-of-charge "Guinness" beer was given out to all visitors.

The honour to open the Festival had the Moscow group "Mervent" which is deservedly considered one of the best and popular Moscow groups. The group performs music of so-called "Celtic" peoples and is almost the only Moscow command paying so big attention to music of Brittany. Qualitative and coulourful - is a way to describe performance of the group.

This evening is the very first time when the best folk bands from 6 cities of Russia present different directions of ethnic music, performing on the same stage. After "Mervent" appeared a young and gifted group from Petrozavodsk, Karelia - "Skylark", playing restrained melodies of Karelia and Finland, using national instruments such as Jouhikko and Kantele, and singing great authentical voices. And then - "Taraf Kharakoz" from Moldavia with their charming motives.

Between performances of musical collectives the audience was entertained by participants of Moscow School of Traditional Dances "Lege Artis", performed various charmed dancing numbers in a style of commercial Irish step a la "Lord of the dance", as well as by members of the club of medieval reconstruction "The Silver Wolf", entertaining visitors by various tricks with a decorative cold steel.

Amusing conferancies-leprechauns are also called to entertain the public with funny competitions and rewarding prices from sponsors and organizers. And most active, merry and nice dressed guests got also unexpected prizes.

The Group "Russian-Celtic Orchestra Reelroad" were the headliners of the Festival, rightly so, as they are considered as a unique ceili-band in Russia. Apart from traditional Irish, Scottish and Breton musical compositions the group performs also Russian folk music. A great amount of the instruments playing simultaneously and a tremendous chorus create a remarkable sensation with dances and other pleasures.

The festival also offered space for folk-rock collective. A group "Racoons" from Nizhniy Novgorod was perhaps, together with "Reelroad", the best group of evening. They succeeded to drive on even that part of the audience which had obviously come not for the music, but just to drink beer, to walk about on club and to chat. To the great pleasure of the spectators, the overwhelming majority of the songs played by the collective were famous Irish ballads and high qualitaty covers. And the most of the spectators sang along with the group!

The musical program of the Festival was finished by a young group "Maxis", Irish, Russian, east-European songs and instrumental compositions. The group is really good, workmanship and skills of musicians are at a highly professional level.

We hope that next festivals will be performed with the participants from more cities and even countries!

More infos about Celtic music in Russia at

Photo Credit: Veresk

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