The Dublin St Patrick’s Day Parade
There are certain holidays that are indelibly associated with particular places. There’s no better place to enjoy Marti Gras than New Orleans, and if you want to truly experience Easter, Rome is the place to go.
For Saint Patrick’s Day, your choice is obvious: go to Dublin. In Dublin, everyone is Irish for St Patrick’s Day. The city becomes a sea of green, full of music, Guinness, and happy pub-goers. It’s an experience you can’t quite have anywhere else.
A core part of this celebration is the St Patrick’s Day parade: a spectacle of enormous floats, acrobatic performances, and musicians. If you don’t mind crowds and loud merry-making, and if you have the chance, go to Dublin for St Patrick’s Day. You’ll never forget it…that is, unless you have a few too many pints of Guinness.
The History of St Patrick’s Day
St Patrick’s Day is held in honor of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. Patrick was a Christian missionary who came to Ireland in the 5th century. He is celebrated in large part for spreading Christianity through Ireland. According to legend, he used a three-leafed shamrock to teach people about the Holy Trinity, giving the shamrock its importance in St Patrick’s Day celebrations.
Legend also states that Patrick was responsible for driving all the snakes out of Ireland. St Patrick’s Day has been a Christian feast day since the early 17th century, although the Irish were celebrating the day for centuries before that. Each year, it is celebrated on March 17th, which is believed to be the day that Patrick died.
The Dublin St Patrick’s Day Festival
Dublin’s St Patrick’s Day Festival is the biggest celebration of St Patrick’s Day in the world. Dublin’s first St Patrick’s Day parade was held in 1931, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that the Irish government decided to promote St Patrick’s Day as a way to celebrate Irish culture and heritage.
The very first St Patrick’s Festival was held in 1996. According to the festival’s website, its goal is
“to reflect the talents and achievements of Irish people on many national and world stages, and it acts as an exciting showcase for the manifold skills of the people of Ireland, of every age and social background.”
The festival is a four-day event around St Patrick’s Day. The parade might be considered the highlight of the festival, but there are many other events, including plays, food festivals, live musical performances, dancing, and more. The city of Dublin even lights up its landmark buildings in green.
The St Patrick’s Day Parade Themes
The St Patrick’s Day parade is the centerpiece of the festival. It is a true spectacle of creativity, artistry, and performance. Each year, the festival committee chooses a theme for the parade.
- For 2016, the theme was “Imagine If.” If you attend the parade, you’ll see marching bands, singers, dancers, elaborate floats, acrobats on stilts, enormous puppets, and more. These are not simple floats but ornately crafted works of art. Many of the floats and puppets are accompanied by audio effects, smoke, bubbles, or other impressive audio and visual effects. They’re truly a site to behold. All of these floats, moreover, highlight Irish culture and talents. Perhaps the best part of attending the parade, however, is being a part of the crowd.
- 2017's theme was ‘Our Stories, this is where we belong’. The idea was that through stories we show and tell something about our heritage which grounds where we belong in time and space.
- 2018's theme was 'Home' and more specific the tagline: 'Home is where the Heart is'. In this diverse, chaotic world this is probably more true than ever.
- 2019's St. Patricks Day theme is 'Colour, Culture, and Community', show us your culture in all its splendor and colour.
The St Patrick’s Day festival draws hundreds of thousands of visitors, all of whom are very excited to be there. When you watch the parade, you’ll be part of a sea of people dressed in green, all ready to celebrate Irish culture (and some already a drink or two in).
You can’t help but catch on to the infectious merriment. If attempting to see through a crowd isn’t your thing, however, you can buy grandstand seats. From these, you’ll have a privileged view of all the parade festivities. Otherwise, get ready to share some elbow room with a lot of excited Irish (and would-be Irish) people.
Have You Been To St. Patricks Day Parade in Dublin?
Other Festival Events
Don’t plan on going home after the parade; the St Patrick’s Day parade includes a plethora of events that you’ll be excited to attend. They cover a span of 4 days, so you may want to plan on a longer trip.
The events change a bit every year, but you can always expect a great selection of cultural performances and delicious food and drinks. Performances might include things like plays, comedy shows, concerts, and traditional Irish music.
For food, you might be able to sample beer, whiskey, and seafood. You can also find carnival rides and games. If you’re athletic (and still feeling up to exercise during a Guinness-filled weekend), the festival organizes a 5k road race each year.
What Else to Do in Dublin
While the festival organizes many great events, not all of the best fun of St Patrick’s Day is planned. If you want to celebrate the religious side of St Patrick’s Day, many of Dublin’s beautiful churches hold special services.
After the parade, many people will head to a pub (or pubs) for a few drinks. The go-to spot is Temple Bar, a neighborhood full of pubs and restaurants. If you’re looking for a good time, this is the place to go. It will be full of revelers singing and generally making merry. In the evening, if you’re still on your feet, it can be nice to talk a stroll (or bus ride) around the city to enjoy all of the green buildings.
Advice for Visiting Dublin on St Patrick’s Day
St Patrick’s Day in Dublin is a big deal, and lots of people go. This means that it’s important to make your plans early, especially if you want to avoid paying high prices.
Hotels, flights, and tours book up fast. You should also expect accommodation prices to be a bit higher than usual. If you want to save money (or are having trouble finding a room), try looking outside of the city center. Dublin has a reliable public transportation system that can get you into the city from the outskirts. In addition, expect crowds. This means leaving yourself a little extra time to get places and eat at restaurants.
If you go to the parade, plan on showing up early if you don’t want to be at the back of a crowd. Be prepared for the parade by wearing something green (there will be plenty of knick-knacks available for purchase if you don’t have anything) and wearing comfortable shoes.
You’ll be doing a lot of standing and walking around the city, so it’s best to be comfortable. As long as you keep these tips in mind, you’ll be sure to have an amazing time.
© 2016 Sam Shepards