Ophidiophobics might be relieved to find that all Dublin hotel rooms boast a distinct absence of snakes in their bathtubs. How can we be so sure? The banishment of serpents from Ireland was one of the many great services to tourism performed by the legendary St. Patrick way back in the 5th century. Hence, the freedom to wash without fear is ritually celebrated in the form of Lá Fhéile Pádraig (St. Patrick’s Day), and is one of Irelands’ most popular exports. Particularly prevalent in Western Europe and the north-east USA, you don’t necessarily need to be on the Emerald Isle to indulge in such a worthy celebration.
You could, for instance, visit the centre of Catholicism itself. Rome’s St. Patrick’s Church, near Villa Borghese, opened on St. Patrick’s Day in 1911 and is the place to first confess your sins and be purged before hitting the town for some serious celebration. Rome’s Annual Celtic Ball – a black tie event comprised of a champagne reception followed by dinner and dancing – will be held in Corsia Della Donne. Alternatively, you could participate in the ‘all-you-can-drink’ pub crawl for EUR 20, with a good helping of Irish dancing and singing thrown in. A few Irish pubs to try are Druids’ Den near the Colosseum, Flann O’briens in Via Nazionale, and Sholars Lounge near Piazza Venezia.
If you’re heading for Paris over the weekend, be prepared to be practically bathed in green Guinness amidst some of the world’s liveliest street parades. Hordes of expats and locals gather in the streets to mark this occasion, and the most craic (fun) is certain to be found in some of the city’s numerous Irish pubs. Kick back on the sofas in The Green Linnet, crowd in downstairs at Corcoran’s St-Michel, or check out the in-house Irish band at Kitty O’Shea’s; you can bet your Eurostar fare that the sport agus spraoi (fun and games) in these joints won’t disappoint. Slightly lower budget but certainly not lower class, Paris’ Irish Cultural Centre is hosting The Re-enchantment of Ireland, a concert featuring vocal artist Padraigin Ni Uallachain and harpist Helen Davies in concert with poet Theo Dorgan. A last resort, providing you have a strong stomach, is Disneyland Paris’ St. Patrick’s Day parade, offering Irish dancers, face painters, thematically attired Disney characters and an impressive green fireworks display.
If you quite like former Fame Academy and X Factor contestants in a free concert on a public square, Belfast should probably your destination of choice. Lemar and Stacey Solomon lead the charge, backed up by local talent. The St. Patrick’s Day parade from Belfast City Hall to Custom House Square follows the green theme of ‘the environment’ and features musicians and percussionists playing instruments made from recycled materials. The icing on the cake; current World, European and All Ireland Pipe Band Champions St Laurence O’Toole will lead the procession.
Irish emigrant Leonardo DiCaprio left British shores on Titanic in 1912 and arrived in Gangs of New York sometime before 1862. Thusly, New York’s Irish community is well established in the city and St. Patrick’s Day has become as American as the hamburger, the Statue of Liberty, or the English language. A veritable glut of parades work their way through New York on this holiday, the largest of which marches clan by clan up Fifth Avenue, past St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the American Irish Historical Society, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, before ending on 86th Street. Aside from green hats, flowers and beer, keep a look out for green water fountains, bagels, and a green Empire State Building. A seemingly endless dispersion of Irish pubs will be awaiting your custom, providing live music, traditional entertainment and, of course, food and beverages aplenty.
You may actually have time for several St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in as many cities: London’s parade will be held on 13th March and is guaranteed to feature marching bands, floats, street theatre and much more. Beginning at noon in Piccadilly, the parade travels south-east through Trafalgar Square to end in Whitehall. Dress code is loosely based around fancy dress or anything green. Trafalgar Square also plays host to a free all-day St Patrick’s Day Festival that includes traditional Irish music and Céilidh dancing, food, crafts and all things cultural – a fabulous and spectacular event for the whole family.
Of course, if you insist on absolute authenticity of experience, you should probably head to Dublin, at the heart of the action. This capital enjoys a major international festival that celebrates not only snake-free bathrooms, but also the myriad achievements of Irish people worldwide, from Michael Collins to Michael Flatley. The St. Patrick’s Festival covers five days of music and dancing, comedy, film and much more besides, including a literary treasure hunt and the Commitments 20th anniversary reunion concert. You really will be hard pressed to feel bored during this festival; from guided tours to major sporting events to an international salsa festival, Dublin becomes the Rio de Janeiro of the northern hemisphere. Following a theme from the Roddy Doyle book Brilliant, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade runs from Parnell Square North to just beyond St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the city centre, accompanied by performances from Ireland’s leading pageant companies.
That’s a lot of green, a lot of beer, and a lot of craic. With these options available, you won’t struggle to have a whale of a time wherever you land. Since each city adds a touch of its own local flavour to the proceedings, easytobook.com heartily recommends trying something new, and perhaps unexpected, this year. If you have further recommendations, please drop us a comment, and we wish you all a Sásta Lá Fhéile Pádraig (Happy St. Patrick’s Day)!