Sunday, July 24, 2011

The OrangeFest

During the end of June and through July 12th you will find parades marching through neighborhoods in Belfast. This is one parade we happen to witness while at a friend's house. It is a yearly Protestant celebration that originated in the 18th century. It is to celebrate the victory of the Protestant king William of Orange over the Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
Unfortunately, this has caused much tension throughout the years as parades march through flash points, Catholic neighborhoods. This year the riots were worse then they have been in a couple of years. The tensions run deep and it sadden us to see the conflict so close at hand.
On the night of the 11th the Protestant (Loyalist and Unionist) groups set bonfires throughout the city. They start collecting their burning materials at the start of June and slowly build up these monstrous towers. Some of the towers are topped with Irish flags or pictures of political leaders.

On the 11th we spent the evening with our friends at a BBQ. Then we went to Deborah's apartment which happened to be close to a bonfire and got to experience it first hand. The fire got started around 11:30pm and quickly consumed the pallets. My kids were shocked by the heat of the fire even though we were a safe distance away.
This bonfire stack had an Irish flag on top of it and my kiddos couldn't understand why anyone would want to burn the flag and were very sad to see it burn. It was hard to explain to them what was happening. Gabe said, "...But we've come to love Ireland why would people want to burn it?"

It was a huge cultural experience for us and gave us a tiny glimmer of understanding to some of the "troubles" on this island we've come to love.

No comments:

Post a Comment