By now, you're probably aware that I spent last spring in Dublin, studying at the Dublin Institute of Technology. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I absolutely fell in love with Ireland. The scenery, the friendly people, the culture--all of it.
Conveniently, choosing the spring semester meant that I was in Dublin for St. Patrick's Day. If you haven't experienced a true Irish celebration of St. Patrick's Day, it is something you need to add to your bucket list right now.
The Irish have a lot of national pride and they are a fun and spirited bunch of people, so going to the pubs and enjoying live music and conversation with a pint of Guinness in hand is a good craic (that's Irish slang for a good time) on any given night. On St. Patrick's Day, however, that spirit is on a completely different level. Yes, the city is full of tourists and I'm sure the Irish are overwhelmed by the leprechaun costumes and excessive crowds at the pubs. But the energy is electric and there are activities for all ages.
Here are my best tips for celebrating St. Patricks Day in Dublin:
I was fortunate enough to be living in Dublin already so I didn't have to worry about the usual travel details, but from my experience trying to help friends book trips, it is extremely difficult and expensive to travel to and find accommodation in Dublin around St. Patrick's Day. I highly recommend booking your flights and hotels far in advance. Would it sound crazy if I told you to start preparing for 2018 right now?
Learn the history.
Did you know that St. Patrick is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland? It is said that he used the three leaves of a clover, or shamrock, to explain the Holy Trinity. Legend has it he is also responsible for driving snakes out of Ireland.
The use of the color green reportedly goes back as far as the Great Irish Rebellion of 1641, when a military commander carried a green flag with the symbol of a harp. The trend continued over the years, even as the Irish began to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in the United States, which you can read more about here.
Don't call it St. Patty's Day.
Let's get this one straight: Don't call it St. Patty's Day. There's an entire website dedicated to informing the public that it is #PaddyNotPatty. According to the website, "Paddy" is short for Pádraig, the Irish form of Patrick, while "Patty" is "the diminutive of Patricia, or a burger, and just not something you call a fella." Get it right, people.
Go to the parade!
Dublin's St. Patrick's Day parade is definitely the weirdest parade I have ever witnessed, but it is something that everyone should experience. It has the typical floats and marching bands, but some of the characters and floats are just strange and confusing. It was also very... interactive. Some of the costumed people would come straight up to the crowd and bop people (nicely) on the head with their props. I don't think I'm doing the best job of selling this, but if you want a unique experience, and especially if you have children with you, the parade is a must-see. Get there early if you want to get a good spot in the city center and be sure to dress warm!
My favorite memories of life in Dublin involve live music. There's nothing that fills my heart more than sitting in a pub with friends and singing along to some Irish tunes. Some fan favorites that I heard constantly are "Galway Girl", "The Wild Rover", and "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" (which was actually written by Scottish duo The Proclaimers). Learn the words, grab a pint and don't be afraid to sing along.
Have a pint.
Listen, I understand that some people don't like beer. I hated it before going to Ireland, but after living in Dublin for four months, I don't think there's a beer I don't like. If you're in Dublin, especially if it's for St. Patrick's Day, you have to try Guinness. Even if it's just to take a stereotypical Guinness mustache picture. You might love it, you might hate it, but you absolutely have to try it (as long as you're of legal drinking age, of course). Be sure to try some authentic Irish whiskey while you're there too!
St. Patrick's Day is a blast no matter where you go, but if you have the opportunity to celebrate the holiday where it originated, please don't miss your chance. Ireland is a beautiful country with so much to see, and Irish people are some of the friendliest you'll ever meet. And if you can't afford to visit for St. Paddy's, I highly recommend going literally any other time of the year.