A couple falls ago, my buddy and I were looking for a European adventure to embark on. We finally settled all the logistics and were happy with the itinerary; Dublin, Edinburgh, London and Rome over a 2 week period. It wasn’t until a week later that I realized we were going to be in Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day. I rang my buddy to deliver the good news.
St. Patrick’s Day, A History
Celebrated on March 17th each year, St. Patrick’s day is aptly named after Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. Saint Patrick’s story is quite interesting. Apparently, sometime in the 4th century a young St. Patrick was kidnapped and taken to the pagan ruled island of Ireland. Working as a slave, he ‘found God’ who told him to escape to the shore where a ship would take him home. The story goes that St. Patrick did just that and returned to Britain where he became a priest and ironically went back to Ireland to convert the pagan natives.
St. Patrick died on March 17th, thus giving us the date for the holiday. It should be noted that most accounts of St. Patrick come from a text written by St. Patrick himself so believe what you will.
St. Patrick’s Day, The Celebration
Enough with the history and on to the celebration we are all familiar with. St. Patrick’s Day (at least in the U.S.) has since come to be a day set aside each year that allows us to commence in all day drinking activities. Colleges shut down as kids skip classes and arrive at the local pub at 7 AM. Adults take off work and entire businesses shut down. Honestly, St. Patrick’s day has become so large in the U.S. it might be only a matter of time before it becomes a public holiday.
I’m glad to report that Ireland and Northern Ireland do in fact acknowledge St. Patrick’s Day as a public holiday. Having had our fair share of experience of St. Patrick’s Days in college, my buddy and I set off before 7 AM to get a prime seat at whatever pub would take us. To our surprise, when we got into Dublin City Center we found the pubs to not only be empty but closed as well. We weren’t really sure what to make of this but we set out around the city to see some sites we hadn’t seen yet such as St. Patrick’s Cathedral (appropriate to do we thought).
The Cathedral itself is quite beautiful and it was cool to see it on St. Patrick’s day as well. On our way back into the city center we got a little turned around but good thing because we found this neat little courtyard that offered some good photo opportunities. It turns out that this is in fact a part of Castle Dublin which neither of us had come across in our searches. A rather fortuitous find.
As noon approached, we made our way back into the city center and the masses had started to arrive. The parade route was set and although the pubs were not yet open we saw a line forming at a pub that looked to be in a prime location. We hopped in line and I believe they opened the doors at 12 PM. All the patrons shuffled in and we found a seat next to the upstairs window that overlooked the parade route. The parade had not yet started but the beer taps had and we did our best to blend in and ordered a Guinness, or two.
As we drank our stouts, we made friends with our table mates and eventually watched the parade cycle through. Call it luck, call it intuition but whatever it was I’m not sure there was a better seat anywhere else to watch the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
After the parade ended, the real party began as people flooded the pubs and streets. It was now that the Irish St. Patrick’s Day resembled the St. Patrick’s Day we were accustomed to.
We made many friends that March 17th, the names for most I can’t remember. Even though most of the day (pretty much the entirety of the night) is still quite hazy, celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in it’s birthplace was nothing short of a great time.
Have you ever booked a trip or found yourself in the middle of a festival or event you had no idea about until you got there?