Irish Protestants celebrate Orangemen’s Day — also known as The Twelfth or Glorious Twelfth — on the 12th of July every year. The day commemorates Protestant king William of Orange’s victory over Catholic king James II at the Battle of the Boyne: a pivotal moment for the Protestant cause. In Ulster, split 50/50 between Catholics and Protestants, the day has historically seen outbursts of sectarian violence. But today its reputation has improved, with most recent marches celebrated peacefully.
How to Observe Orangemen's Day
1. Light a bonfire
Irish protestants celebrate Orangemen's day by building towering bonfires, competing with one another to create the largest blaze.
2. Beat the Lambeg drum
On Orangemen local Protestant lodges' marching bands can be seen parading the streets, playing traditional music on traditional instruments—most famously the Lambeg drum.
3. Wear a silly costume
While The Twelfth is usually treated with gravitas, due to its long and occasionally bloody history, many lodges' bands will don silly costumes after their trip to the battlefield, returning home with a more jocular attitude.
Why Orangemen's Day is Important
A. It presents an opportunity to heal
While Orangemen's Day has often been misused as a trigger for sectarian conflict, it can also be used as a yardstick for how far Northern Ireland has come in resolving its troubles. Every year that parades and celebrations are carried off peacefully reinforces the strides made in the Northern Irish peace process.
B. It celebrates culture
At its best, Orangemen's Day allows Irish protestants to celebrate their culture, and mingle with family and friends—not only in Northern Ireland, but in other areas with large Irish protestant communities, like Scotland, England, Wales, Canada, Australia, and America.
C. It encourages historical education
Northern Ireland is full of history, and events like Orangemen's Day encourage younger Irish generations to learn about the nation's past—to understand what's going on, if nothing else.