12 JulTuesdayBattle of the Boyne Northern Ireland

Battle of the Boyne in 2023 - 2024 - 2025 - 2019 - 2020 - 2021

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You can often see the Battle of the Boyne holiday being called Orangemen’s Day or the Twelfth. It is celebrated as a commemoration of the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 which is the peak of the Glorious Revolution in 1688. Glorious Revolution was a movement conducted by William of Orange in order to overturn the repressive Catholic regime led by James II. Both sides viewed the war very differently. Jacobite forces who supported James II viewed it as the protection of Irish sovereignty and the power of the Catholic church. Whereas the troops of William of Orange, Williamite forces, viewed it as a way of stabilising Protestant and English rule in Ireland. Also, they knew that Jacobite forces would seize their lives and property if they didn’t succeed. As a result, at the Battle of the Boyne, the troops of James II were defeated by William of Orange and his soldiers which started the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland. However, the political aspect of the holiday has faded drastically over the years and now it is celebrated by people of all political views.

There have been some contradictions about the exact date as well. The Battle of Boyne was originally fought on 1 July 1690; however, with the switch to the Gregorian calendar in 1752, the date of battle became 11 July 1690. After contradictions on when to celebrate, people decided to combine the two dates and started to celebrate on 12 July. In addition to that, they started to call the holiday the Twelfth as well.

With large bonfires starting to rise, celebrations begin on 11 July or Eleventh Night as they say in Northern Ireland. However, there are attempts to cut down bonfires in order to have a more family and environment friendly event. Some people fuel the fire with wooden pallets and rubber tires which can make the fire reach well over 100 feet tall. The parades start the next day. These parades are generally organised by members of the Orange Order which is a Protestant fraternal organisation based in Ulster. People used to call this holiday the Orangemen’s Day due to its political history. Orangemen who participate in these parades generally wear a dark suit with an orange sash. Sometimes white gloves and a traditional bowler hat accompany the rest of the suit.

Parades are not the only event of this holiday of course:

  • Streets are decorated with bunting and Union flags by loyalists. Loyalists argue that it is a tradition but since the flags have a political meaning, they have caused some problems near the Republican areas in the past years.
  • It is a tradition for common people to watch the parades on television, so, most of the local channels broadcast the events. The Twelfth originated in Northern Ireland and it is the longest running of these broadcast programs. Many people compete to be able to wave at the cameras filming the parades every year. With many people trying to enjoy the day, its political meaning surely fades rapidly.
  • There are also contests called Lambeg drumming contests that are very popular. Lambeg drum is a large musical instrument that is played with a pair of curved malacca canes. Normally, this is not an easily carried instrument but there are people who travel through parade routes on floats playing their full-sized drums which certainly contributed to the popularity of the instrument.

Recently, many people have been trying to make the holiday more inclusive and they are actually starting to become successful as well. There are many new politically neutral customs like releasing balloons. People release a purple or orange balloon for every year since 1690. There are still people who consider the Twelfth divisive, but it is clear that there have been many improvements.

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