Greetings, friends, from Northern Ireland. My home! You may have heard of Belfast before, it’s quite a noisy wee spot. Yes, we’re the land of George Best, Van Morrison, James Nesbitt, Jamie Dornan and Liam Neeson. We’re the land of the Giant’s Causeway (have we mentioned that? We’re known for never ever really going on about it, or you know, hinging the tourism industry of the entire country on it), the land where Game of Thrones is set and the land where a gay cake can cause national uproar.
I wanted to take the time to write a quick post about one of the most celebrated days of the year here in pretty Northern Ireland – The Glorious Twelfth of July. What is it and why is it so glorious? Well imma tell you. Briefly. In my own words. Without delving too much into the history books (which is good because I only just scraped a ‘C’ grade in history and other than the date I’m about to discuss in this post, 1066 is the only other I remember – Battle of Hastings right? #Smartypants)
For those unsure – The Twelfth, also called Orangemen’s Day (according to Wikipedia) is an Ulster Protestant celebration held on 12th July. It originated during the late 18th century in Ulster. It celebrates the Glorious Revolution (1688) and victory of good old Protestant King William of Orange over Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne (1690), which began the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland. On and around the Twelfth, large parades are held by the Orange Order and Ulster loyalist marching bands, streets are bedecked with British flags and bunting, and large towering bonfires are lit normally the night before. It’s mainly celebrated in Northern Ireland (where it’s a public holiday), but smaller celebrations and parades are held in other parts of the world where Orange lodges have been set up. The Twelfth involves thousands of participants and spectators from all over the country and further afar.
Unfortunately it can be tarred as a bitter demonstration by some. Because of this, each year, some more than others, there tends to be disturbances, protests and downright silliness. At the end of the day, whatever way one might perceive the celebration, someone is going to be offended, we are a generation of great opinion, public rights and offensiveness, it just simply cannot be helped. The way I see it, if the songs played offends you, stay at home. If the flags carried upset you, look the other way. If I was offended by something, I would very much go out of my way to avoid it and any confrontation that may come of it. But maybe not everyone is quite like me, and that’s ok.
So here in Northern Ireland, we might not ALL celebrate this day, but believe me, it’s something to experience. The music played by the marching bands are nothing short of brilliant, the colourful characters that come to entertain are a joy to watch and the afternoon spent at the “field” is great fun, especially if you get good weather, bouncy castles, food vans, music and it’s full of good natured banter, warm welcomes wherever you go and friendliness in such abundance you could be forgiven for thinking you were being mistaken for an old friend.
I encourage everyone to see it at least once, ignore the media reporting on the trouble that sometimes evolves, get involved, and I promise you’ll have an awesome day. You’ll want to do it all over again next year.
For those attending tomorrow, whether it be in Bangor, Belfast, Richhill or any of the other districts celebrations, have a glorious Twelfth of July and be safe! I know I will!