About This Festival
March 17th (St. Patrick's Day) marks the day in circa 457 AD when Saint Patrick died and took his story to the grave. Since, the only known details of his life come from two handwritten letters sent by Patrick to himself, the rest propagated through myth. We know that Saint Patrick was born in England and was kidnapped from his home by Irish Raiders at the age of 16. After six years as a slave, God visited him in a dream and encouraged him to escape. With that divine vision, he broke free and returned to his English family in order to carry God’s mission back to Ireland. In addition to crediting Saint Patrick with the spreading of Christianity to the Irish pagans, ancient legend holds that he also drove all the snakes out of the entire nation. Old Irish folklore also tells us the Saint would use a three-leafed shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity—the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. It is then unmistakable how his Irish legacy remains so strong to this day.
Conceived of initially as a religious feast in the ninth century, St. Patrick’s Day took a thousand years to become an official holiday in 1901, with the first parade occurring in 1931. It wasn't until 1995 that it became a government-sponsored, four-day festival. Talk about late blooming! But well prior to the St. Patrick’s legitimization, international celebrations have long been going strong, heartily supporting the export of Irish alcohol and green pride.
St. Patrick's Day - The Green Scene
Truly the climax to the four-day carousing spree is the parade held on March 17th, where the million-strong, Guinness-fueled, green-clad revelers resemble a veritable army. The event is as much about participation as it is about spectacle. Few forego the tradition of adorning all green. At 11am, the festivities get underway at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral with the procession officially starting at noon and rolling until completion at the Black Church on Dorset Street. The most prized views are from the O’Connell Street Bridge — an attractive alternative to shelling out 60 Euros for the stadium seats. Afterwards, the celebrators continue onward to Earlsfort Terrace for the Céilí Mór dance party. Traditional Irish dancing spills into the streets, and even the most bashful find themselves joining in for a jig. From there, the merriment rallies forward in the thousands of city pubs, only stumbling distance away.
In the week before the official revelry, the energy is contagious. The funfair at Merrion Square is host to a plethora of rides that are better to try at the beginning of the fete than at the hungover end. The fair is family-friendly with loads of street performers, live music, and entertainment for all. Even more, there is an annual boat race and a massive exhibition of Gaelic football and hurling. After four days of shenanigans, with tired legs, a full belly, and high spirits, you’ll be ready to sleep it all off.
If you can’t make it to Dublin for St. Paddy’s Day, there are plenty of celebrations nearby. New York wins the silver medal in green spirit, where hundreds of thousands of Irish descendants and their fans turn out for a parade of bagpipes blazing traditional tunes. Boston is the runner-up for the biggest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the US, and Chicago has a distinctive custom of its own, dying the entire Chicago River green. Saint Patrick’s Day has even been observed in space at the International Space Station, earning it an unprecedented honor of being “out of this world.” To whatever city the day takes you, the holiday’s core remains the celebration of friends old and new at—of course— the local Irish pub.