5 Ways to Celebrate Irish Culture in Pittsburgh


As you make plans to watch Pittsburgh’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, buy green T-shirts, and make corned beef and cabbage, please keep in mind that the correct abbreviation for St. Patrick’s name is Paddy and not Patty.* I’ve made this egregious error and more, but the Irish Community here in Pittsburgh is pretty forgiving, especially when you know an authentic Irishman.

My husband spent the first 22 years of his life in Ireland. When he moved to Pittsburgh for graduate school, armed with only a back-pack full of clothes, his Irish accent and charm, and no more than two nickels to rub together, he had to make a new life for himself. He did that with the support of the amazing Irish community that exists in Pittsburgh.

So, if you are interested in learning more about local Irish Culture, I have the insider’s list right here.

  1. Watch and Play Irish Football with the Pittsburgh Gaelic Athletic Association

The Irish play a sport that is uniquely theirs: Gaelic Football. It has been played for hundreds of years in every village in Ireland and has spread around the world. It has often been described as a hybrid of soccer, basketball and rugby. The PGAA (Pittsburgh Gaelic Athletic Association) is home to three teams: the Pittsburgh Celtics Gaelic Football Club (the men’s team), the Pittsburgh Banshees Ladies Football Club, and the Pittsburgh GAA Youth. The Youth Team accepts players aged 6-16. The teams travel to Philadelphia, Cleveland, Washington, Detroit, and beyond to play Irish football games. The teams even traveled to Ireland in September 2017 to compete.

There was a summer long ago when my husband played for the Celtics, while I played for the Banshees. If you come to a game, my husband still plays; he’s the elder of the team – look for the gray hair. I, however, have hung up my cleats. Now, I partake in the traditional after game beers with the team supporters and focus on the next generation of footballers.

The PGAA is a non-profit organization with a mission to further the development of Gaelic Culture in Pittsburgh. To learn more, check out Pittsburgh’s GAA Facebook page and website. Hope to see you at a game this summer!

Photo credit: https://www.pittsburghgaa.com/youth/

  1. Irish Dancing

Irish dancing is a very important part of the heritage and culture of Ireland; just like the Irish language, native sports like Gaelic Football and Hurling, and traditional Irish music. In the past few decades Irish dancing has seen a huge revival, partly because of the worldwide success of Riverdance. Learning Irish dancing is a regular extra curricular activity of many Irish children, and it always features prominently at Irish themed events like St. Patrick’s Day. 

There are several Irish Dancing schools throughout the city. For example, check out the Shovlin Academy of Irish Dancing in the South Hills, which teaches both boys and girls aged 5 and up. A strong part of the Irish Dancing culture is performing. Be sure to spot these dancers in the Pittsburgh St. Patrick’s Day parade.

  1. Camp Cula Bula

This summer, consider an Irish summer camp for your kids, right here in Pittsburgh – Camp Cula Bula. Campers aged 6-14 will spend a week immersing themselves in the sights, sounds, sports, and culture of Ireland, right in in Shadyside. Campers will enjoy a wide range of activities from Irish Football to Irish Dane, Irish language and stories, Irish music and the arts. 

  1. Learn the Irish Language at the University of Pittsburgh or through the Irish Institute of Pittsburgh

If you’ve ever been lucky enough to visit Ireland, you’ll notice that all the road signs and many government papers are in Irish Gaelic. Ireland is very serious about instilling pride in the Irish Language from an early age; so much so that to hold some government positions it’s required to know Irish Gaelic and many sporting events are announced in Irish Gaelic first, then English. 

Study Irish at the University of Pittsburgh and take advantage of their introductory, intermediate, and advanced-level Irish courses taught by native Dubliner, Marie Young. So learn more, see Irish | Less-Commonly-Taught Languages Center | University …

Or, you could learn Irish language online through the Irish Institute of Pittsburgh

University of Pittsburgh

  1. Solace Sunrise Walk Pittsburgh

Starting at 4:15 am, and crossing the finish line as dawn is breaking, the Solace Sunrise Walk is an annual 5km walk that raises funds and creates awareness for suicide prevention. The Pittsburgh walk will be held on Saturday, May 19, 2018. The Solace Sunrise walk originated in Dublin, Ireland as a fundraiser for the Pieta House, a non-profit that provides free one-to-one therapy for people who are in suicidal distress, those who engage in self harm and people who are bereaved by suicide. The walk then spread to other cities that had Irish citizens and supporters. Pittsburgh is one of dozens of cities worldwide to host an annual walk. To join the hundreds of thousands globally that will walk in the wee hours of the morning of May 19, 2018, please see here.

Solace House’s vision is a world where suicide, self harm and stigma have been replaced by hope, self-care and acceptance.  

Walkers in Dublin, Ireland

Further resources:

Pittsburgh Irish Centre – Local center for Irish culture and education

Pittsburgh Irish Festival – Held every second weekend of September

The Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh – offers work visas, internships, travel and training programs as part of its commitment to promoting mutual understanding between the Protestant & Catholic peoples of Northern Ireland and strengthening the economic development of the island of Ireland.

Pittsburgh Hurling Club – The official site of the Pittsburgh Pucas

* “Paddy is derived from the Irish, Pádraig, hence those mysterious, emerald double-Ds. Patty is the diminutive of Patricia, or a burger, and just not something you call a fella. There’s not a sinner in Ireland that would call a Patrick, ‘Patty.’”