St. Patrick's Day in Dublin
No matter where you come from in the world, March 17 is a day when “going green” means becoming Irish at heart and in spirit. St. Patrick’s Day is arguably the national day celebrated most widely internationally, and even though the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the Irish capital Dublin is not the world’s largest (that honor goes to New York City) it’s certainly the most jubilant. Spectators line the 1.6-mile route to see a truly spectacular parade of more than 3,500 musicians, entertainers, Irish dignitaries and celebrities march from Dublin’s Parnell Square to O’Connell Street, across the River Liffey on the O’Connell Bridge to Westmoreland Street and onto Dame Street, then Lord Edward Street, passing Christchurch Cathedral along Patrick Street to finish by St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
It’s a two-hour extravaganza of color and excitement, noise and revelry — and it’s the climactic event in what is now a four-day affair in Ireland. In addition to celebrating St. Patrick himself, the festival celebrates the best of Ireland’s culture, heritage, history and its very contemporary creative, design and performing arts. One of the most unique features of the celebration will reflect the national identification with the color green: some of Dublin’s most historic buildings, including Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin Castle, and Trinity College, will be illuminated in bright green at night during the festival in the Greening of the City.
Good eats and drinks
And while a visit to Dublin at any time requires a stop-in at one of its traditional watering holes, such an excursion is virtually mandatory for visitors traveling there for St. Patrick’s Festival. The Palace Bar on Fleet Street at the edge of the colorful Temple Bar district of the city and Mulligan’s on Poolbeg Street get particularly good marks from non-locals for their authentic neighborhood flavor and good “craic,” an Irish expression (actually based on the English slang word “crack”) for conversation, or enjoyable company.
If you like your food hearty and meat-rich, you’ll enjoy Irish fare. While a meal of famous Dublin coddle — a dish of ham, sausages, onions and potatoes — goes down well on a chilly March evening, a full Irish breakfast will get you energized for a few hours standing along the parade route. A full Irish breakfast that includes black or white pudding, grilled bacon and sausage, along with a potato farl and a tomato, may delight a meat eater. To American tastes, a pudding sounds like something sweet, but an Irish pudding is actually made of pork fat, onions and oatmeal; the black version includes blood, usually from a pig, while the white version has no blood. The vegetarian in your group might prefer just the potato farl, a traditional Irish dish made with leftover mashed potatoes and is sometimes called a potato cake. Very tasty!
Now back to the parade: Most spectators prefer to stand to watch the parade with the masses on O’Connell Bridge, a favorite observation spot. But if you’d rather watch from a more exclusive location, buy a grandstand ticket at Parnell Square, where the parade begins at http://shop.stpatricksfestival.ie/shop. Tickets go on sale at the end of November and will go quickly.
So here’s to going green with style on March 17 — and be sure to wear green for the big day! No one will pinch you if you don’t, but it's more fun if you do. For more information about St. Patrick’s festivities in Dublin, visit www.stpatricksfestival.ie.