Few events capture the worldwide imagination quite like St. Patrick’s Day. Regardless of your nationality, age or gender, the anniversary of the death of the patron saint of Ireland brings us all together with one simple mission – drink our body weight in Guinness, then take advantage of the pounds we’ve piled on in the process to drink a little more. Of course, if you’re going to indulge in the Feast of St. Patrick, there’s only one place to do it properly – the Irish capital city of Dublin.
As a religious festival, St. Patrick’s Day is officially recognised by the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Lutherian Churches, as well as the Church of Ireland, acting a celebration of the arrival of Christianity in Eire and paying tribute to all elements of Irish culture. Falling on the 17th of March each year, if the observance of Lent threatens to interfere with the festivities all restrictions are lifted for 24 hours.
So, who was Saint Patrick? No fixed theories exist as to the dates of his birth, but the tales of this holy figure tell of a young man from Roman Britain who was kidnapped by Irish Pirates and brought the Emerald Isle. Patrick used his time in captivity to forge a bond with God, and became a missionary throughout the Irish nation, baptising thousands of residents and showing them the light of the lord. Allegedly, it was Saint Patrick that used the fabled symbol of the shamrock to denote the Holy Trinity of father, son and ghost, hence why the tri-leaved plant remains a symbol of the celebration today. Passing away on March 17th in the year 461 AD, a legend and national holiday was born.
Now, onto business. What is the etiquette of celebrating the day in Dublin? Until the latter days of the 20th Century, Saint Patrick’s Day was something of a sore point in Ireland. Despite being long declared a public holiday in the country, celebrations tended to be more abundant abroad than on home soil, particularly in North American territories with a strong Irish community such as New York and Boston. Indeed, NYC hosted the world’s first Saint Patrick’s Day parade way back in 1762, and it still runs to this day. Dublin, however, now has a festival call its own.
Dublin’s 2017 St. Patrick’s Festival runs from March the 16th to March the 19th. Bringing prominence to the achievements of Irish men and women the world over, and prove that the country is a forward-thinking advanced nation, the festival will feature live music and a parade throughout the city that will rival Rio.
Saint Patrick’s Day is a 24-hour period in which the world turns green, and that goes double for Dublin and the parade. Don your finest emerald garments (and if you have none, rectify that – you’ll stick out like a sore thumb at a hand model convention in any other colour) and take in the sights of the city, many of which will be bathed in a green glow for the duration of the festival. You’ll be invited to take part in a citywide treasure hunt, watch the University boat race, sweat out your hangover with a charitable 5k run, and learn Irish dancing moves that would have Michael Flatley nodding in approval – all while eating and drinking your fill from the many street food vendors. Half a million people are expected to fill the streets to watch the parade, so take your spot early!
This ties into another top tip for St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin – don’t peak too soon. By the time the night falls, The Temple Bar area will be a swarming mass of singing, dancing, celebrating punters, many of whom will be visitors and non-natives, but don’t expect to find the streets lined with drunks from the break of dawn. Starting early and missing most of the celebrations is quite the faux pas, and will expose you as an outsider before you’ve even opened your mouth. If the parade doesn’t tickle your fancy, just explore the city and drink in the atmosphere (though avoid the Guinness Brewery unless you absolutely must – unsurprisingly, Saint Patrick’s is the busiest day of the year). Thankfully most of Dublin is negotiable on foot, as the roads will be packed and largely nonnegotiable.
Saint Patrick’s Day in Dublin is something that everybody should experience at least once, as it’s something that you are unlikely to ever forget. Follow the tips above, and you can enjoy the best of both worlds – celebrate Irish pride and achievement with the slightly more subdued locals, and then party the night away with visitors who wish to pay tribute to Celtic culture in their own way.