Just when you thought we had enough patriotic celebrations, there’s a different patriotic celebration that happens in Northern Ireland one week after our own. The Twelfth (also called The Glorious Twelfth or Orangemen's Day) is the annual Protestant celebration held on the 12th of July. Originating in Ireland during the 18th century, it celebrates the 1688 Revolution and victory of Protestant king William of Orange over Catholic king James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Members of the Orange Order and Protestant marching bands hold large parades throughout Northern Ireland and, to a lesser extent, in other parts of the world where Orange lodges have been set up. The marches are typically led by lambeg drum and pipes. Streets are often decorated with British flags and bunting. The Twelfth is a public holiday in Northern Ireland. While it is a Protestant celebration, not all Northern Irish Protestants celebrate it.
On the night before The Twelfth—the "Eleventh Night"—huge bonfires are lit in many Protestant, Unionist and Loyalist areas of Northern Ireland. In many Protestant communities the bonfires are seen as family-friendly community celebrations.
However, attempts have recently been made to downplay the political aspects of the marches and present the Twelfth as a cultural, family-friendly event at which tourists are welcome. In Belfast, for example, it has been re-branded as Orangefest. Orangemen marches have also happened in Protestant areas of Scotland, Wales, Australia and Canada.
To our many friends from Northern Ireland who have shared their music, culture and stories with us – especially to our good friend, Neville Gardiner, owner of Donegal Square in downtown Bethlehem and native son of Belfast – we wish you a very happy July 12th.
For the Celtic Cultural Alliance, I’m Silagh White. Slainte.