St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland is like tasting chocolate for the very first time in Hershey, Pennsylvania. It’s like meeting Dolly Parton in Nashville or attending mass in Rome. It is Chinese New Year in Beijing and ringing in the new year in Times Square. Being in Ireland during St. Patrick’s Day is like placing yourself at the root of tradition, bleeding green and sweating Guinness.
I wouldn’t normally travel 24 hours (with time zone changes) to a destination just to spend three days there before turning back around and heading back home again … but I don’t get an invitation to visit Dublin, Ireland, for St. Patrick’s Day every year.
I was one of about 50 international media guests invited to Dublin to dive into the culture of St. Patrick’s Day. As per any media trip, the itinerary was packed, but it hit the highlights and whet my appetite to get back and explore more. A few of my thoughts and notes from Dublin’s big day:
> One local told me that the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin was created to give tourists something to do on the holiday, but other locals told me that those who live in the city love it as much as tourists. I got the feeling the people enjoying the festivities were a healthy mix of both.
> The parade is totally random. The theme seems to be no theme, as far as I can tell. Green wasn’t a recurring feature, and every float or group seemed to be totally unrelated to the last one. Dancing lips? Yep. Multi-colored teddy bear-esque critters? Check. Strangely defined zombies? Done. I found myself laughing, totally and completely unsure what to make of the whole spectacle.
> This was the first time it snowed for the parade in 16 years. When I was in high school, I marched in the coldest New Year’s Day parade in London since World War II, so that’s pretty much par for the course.
> I should take up parade float riding. I love waving and blowing kisses. It never gets old. A second career, perhaps?
> Do you want to hang out with the real party goers? Head to Temple Bar, where crowds are so thick it feels like you could be crushed in the crowd. The only comparable experience I’ve had was being in Vancouver, Canada, when the Canucks played in the Stanley Cup.
> I spent the afternoon and evening at the Guinness Storehouse with some friends. A few words: The Guinness Storehouse is more glorified museum than brewery. The sky bar is awesome sauce, but it would be more fabulous without a million people in it.
> Another word on drinking: Guinness. That is the drink of choice. What is this American creation of green beer? I didn’t see anything resembling green beer in Dublin. It was Guinness or it was nothing. Learn to drink it proudly.
> Go green or go home. As predicted, people can buy all sorts of tacky green gear on the streets of Dublin – face paint, hats, plastic beads. I tried to keep it a bit low key and was totally okay with that, but if you want to go all out with the Irish gear, this is the time to do it.
> Dublin is home to a lot of cool museums and interesting sites. St. Patrick’s Day is not the time to visit them. Well, you can visit these sites, but the lines are long and everything is ridiculously crowded. If you want to check out Dublin for Dublin’s sake, do it some time other than St. Patrick’s Day. If you want to enjoy St. Patrick’s Day, enjoy the festivities but don’t force yourself to do much else.
The verdict: The quick trip was SO WORTH IT. St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland was a blast and I’m so grateful I was given the opportunity to party hard during the annual festival that, in many ways, defines Ireland for the world at large.