An Irishman's guide to celebrating St. Patrick's Day in Ireland


St. Patrick's Day Parade in Belfast City
Hail glorious Saint Patrick, dear Saint of our isle! Of course St Patrick’s Day is a momentous one in the world calendar (there aren’t many other national holidays that prompt an audience with the President or turn rivers a different color) and it’s a day to be savored. But before you do, consider the following things to make the most of the national day.

If you don’t get to the city by midday, don’t expect to move freely

It can be hard to get all your ducks in a row on St Patrick’s Day. There’s no school so there are more people to coordinate, and harder to get them out of bed, to say nothing of the inevitable last-minute-scramble-for-shamrocks-down-the-garden-to-attach-to-your-lapel. But if you’re not in the city early enough to nab a decent place for the parades, all you’re likely to see is the back of a 6ft 5 man’s head for an hour and a half, and that’s if you’re lucky. Although, if you’re not located in such a bustling metropolis you might be OK, which brings me on to...

The local parade

Habitually these start about 3pm and end about 3.25pm, although this can be stretched to 4pm if you include the Pied Piper-esque ritual of walking up the street after the floats have passed. Well I say floats, I mean tractors and lorries with people in wigs on the back and kids holding banners while dancing/doing karate/martial dance.

Have a roster of Irish songs ready to belt out at a moment’s notice

If you’re exhausted after the parades and fancy a refreshment in one of Ireland’s myriad public houses, you may a) have to wait a while and b) be called upon to sing a verse or two of The Irish Rover. And possibly some others, because once a crowd gets into the singing groove they won’t stop just because the Irish songs have, as I learned when dozens of revelers outside The Quays in Galway started singing Eternal Flame.

Pace yourself

Once you’ve served your time at the bar (approximately 4 months on St Patrick’s Day), the intoxicating mix of a day off, effusive atmosphere and beer can all get a bit much. That mixed with the fact St Patrick’s Day is one where you can break Lent means things can get a bit messy. Disappear for half the night messy. Wake up the following morning feeling like Adagio for Strings was written just for you messy.

Try and avoid The Daily Mail the day after

Head rattling is bad enough, but hand wringing won’t do your fragile self any good. It’s pretty common for everyone’s favourite makeshift doormat to write a “Think of the children!” diatribe the day after St Patrick’s Day, shoving genteel Ireland’s face in debauchery they apparently hate but must show. A few pages after that, they may also have an affectionate piece on that loveable old troublemaking roister doister Oliver Reed.

March is not a great month for Irish sightseeing

If you’re away from home on Patrick’s Day and resolved to do some sightseeing round the general area, bear in mind the weather may not sit well with your plans. So if you were spending Paddy’s Day in, say, Cork, going to the Cliffs of Moher on the way home may result in being soaked to the skin and blown around the adjoining fields without mercy in near-hurricane weather, before being flung down the steps on the way down at great speed by a gust of Beaufort-busting wind. Not that I’m speaking from experience. Ahem.

A good oul film to end it all

If you decide not to go down the drink yourself into a Daily Mail-outraging stupor on St Patrick’s Day, you can always go home, perhaps with a takeaway, and watch a good oul Bank Holiday film, often with an Oirish twist (Sean Connery as an Irishman in Darby O’Gill anyone?) but sometimes without (Tropic Thunder, as RTE showed last year, crosses all ethnic barriers. Except maybe Vietnamese ones). Sure what else would you be doing?


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