Without fail, St. Patrick’s Day always draws moans and groans about what city is the best place to celebrate the day. Many say Dublin is overrated, while others point to New York City as a despicable mess of drunks.
I had the opportunity to spend the past two St. Patrick’s Days in Dublin - 2010 for my semester abroad, and 2011 for my spring break trip. Certainly, there are differences between being there on March 17th, and being here in New York City.
One of the biggest differences is, of course, that St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland is an official holiday, meaning that majority of offices and schools are closed. And what do you get when you close work for a holiday? A big party night the night prior to the actual holiday.
Much to the disappointment of many people across the country, the US doesn’t recognize St. Patrick’s Day as an official holiday. That, however, has not deterred people from celebrating. And this year, with St. Patrick’s Day falling on a Saturday, there is sure to be a marked increase in the number of those people choosing to join in the festivities.
I was pleasantly surprised to see March 16th in Dublin was a lively night in 2010, despite it only being a Tuesday. (Is there such thing as a not lively night in Dublin, though?) But, with a lively night in Dublin city comes a sore head the next morning.
Nothing a little hair of the dog couldn’t cure, starting at 9am.
After dousing our pained heads, we walked over to O’Connell Street to catch the tail-end of the parade. Then, it was a traditional Irish meal for lunch (Supermac’s) before having naps to get ready for the evening of pints at The Brazen Head, which felt slightly removed from the madness of Temple Bar.
For our return trip in 2011, we felt like practiced pros at St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin. (Well, not completely I suppose as there were still some sore heads on St. Patrick’s Day morning again.) We settled in at our local from the year before for rounds of Bulmers and Carlsbergs to fix us up on St. Patrick’s Day morning.
While we had the best intentions to head down to O’Connell Street to watch the parade, we found ourselves fairly comfortable in our cozy pub, and opted to watch the parade on television there instead.
It was over pints that morning that we began to notice one of the primary differences between the American and Irish St. Patrick’s Day celebrations - the contrast in the parades.
In New York City, the parade features mostly traditional Irish groups. Irish dancers, Irish music groups, all the county associations, etc make up the NYC St. Patrick’s Day parade, as well as the other major cities’ parades across the country.
In Dublin, however, there is definitely a more modern interpretation of Irish culture and arts, one that wouldn’t be found on the whole in the New York City parade. Artistic floats and bright colors - not the overwhelming green and Aran sweaters of New York City - make their way down O’Connell Street.
Understandably, St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland spawns a few days of celebrations, unlike the isolated day of March 17th in the US. Showcases of Irish music, arts, dance, and culture all prepare not only the Irish capital, but cities across the island, for its most famous holiday.
One of the main overlapping features of St. Patrick’s Day here and there, and frankly, everywhere? The party atmosphere, of course. While American revelry on St. Patrick’s Day has recently come under fire for portraying the Irish as wild drunks, there is still no doubt that St. Patrick’s Day for many includes at least a modest visit to the pub.
Unfortunately, I have yet to be 21 years old in New York City for St. Patrick’s Day, so I’m not sure first hand how rowdy the Irish pubs that fill the city can get. Certainly they fill up, with people of both Irish and non-Irish descent, up for a bit (or a load) of craic.
St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin lasts until the early hours of the morning. Every time you think the day is about to die down, you magically find your second wind and head to the next pub for a switch in atmosphere. If pub hopping, pacing oneself is imperative - which includes eating and switching to water at times.
There’s no shortage of pubs and bars to wander in and out of in both Dublin and New York. Dublin, however, I found to be slightly more manageable with the convenience of the Temple Bar area, whose pedestrian streets and plentiful bars and clubs become a prime party area for the rest of the day.
One of the other overlapping features, not only between Dublin and New York City, but with cities all around the world that celebrate the holiday, is that culturally, St. Patrick’s Day has become a type of all inclusive holiday. It’s not only the Irish who partake in celebrations, but people of nearly every walk of life will find enjoyment on March 17th - a sure nod to the welcoming nature of the Irish character.
So, the main differences between Dublin and New York City on St. Patrick’s Day? Dublin appears to be taking the reins on the holiday and bringing it into the modern era, while New York City clings to the more traditional aspects of the Irish holiday. Dublin sees it as an opportunity to celebrate Irish progress into modernity, and New York City sees it as a day to honor its Irish roots and history.
Guinness recently coined St. Patrick’s Day as ‘The Friendliest Day of the Year,’ so surely whatever city you find yourself in on this St. Patrick’s Day, you’ll be sure to have a good time with good company.
Historic film of old Ireland from 1934 (VIDEO)