March 17th: the day Ireland goes green (even more so than usual) with pride.
As my first time ever in Ireland, it was quite exciting to have my first full day there as St Patrick’s Day, and I expected it to be a crazy, happy time- boy, was I right!
We started the day with the St Patrick’s Day parades at about 11am with a prime spot on the fence in O’Connell Street. As 2013 is the year of The Gathering, Ireland’s opening of arms to friends and family from around the world, there were people from an amazing number of countries both in the crowd and the parades- with over 700 million people worldwide claiming Irish ancestry, this is hardly surprising! We expected locals to be at least a little unfriendly to so many intruders in their city covered in facepaint, flags and hats, but it seemed like the spirit was the more the merrier!
The People’s Parade was a jubilant mixture of marching bands (including one made entirely of accordions + drums!) and people dancing down the street, in or out of costume. The essential thing was that everyone had something in common. The main parade was slightly more serious, with bands belonging to fire brigades and police departments, as well as some very impressive American school bands (I’ve always been in awe of some of their moves!), alternating with the likes of the mayors of Dublin towns around the world as well as the Dublin, Nicky from Westlife and various armed forces.
Next up was the famous Guinness Storehouse on St. James’ Gate, still going strong since 1759, when Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000 year (!) lease on the site. I initially had the opportunity to lead the University of York Concert Band in the atrium (the bottom of the world’s largest pint glass!) which, despite the odd acoustic, had an amazing atmosphere, probably at least partially due to the merriments of the day and those already tipsy in the afternoon! We then had the opportunity to make the most of the storehouse for the afternoon, learning how to pull our own pints and experiencing the amazing atmosphere and slightly less amazing view from the Gravity Bar as well as seeing an Irish ceili band and traditional fire department pipe band who were part of the storehouse’s festival as we were. All in all, this seemed to be the perfect afternoon to spend at one of Dublin’s most famous establishments.
To finish off our Dublin St Patrick’s Day, what else but a night out? A group of about 10 of us ventured into Temple Bar, only to discover everywhere that looked appealing was either full or uncomfortably fit to bursting, so I led the gang back to the river and into a friendly but still lively looking pub that- and, since the afternoon, this was a must- served Guinness. Success! Live music from a small Irish band with a cheeky sense of humour and a healthy range of covers, as well as pints only a few cents more than in less central bars not on St Paddy’s! Perfect. I was happy to stay there for hours, and a great time was had by all.
Admittedly, there may be less tourist-y ways to spend St Patrick’s Day that Dublin locals may be horrified that I haven’t mentioned; however, I can attest that wherever in the city you are, at whatever time of day, an amazing time will be had and you will feel genuinely included (perhaps as long as you’re wearing green!) I was even questioned on my return as to the credibility of drinking Guinness with the Irish on St Patrick’s Day, to which I say ‘why not?’; everyone wanted a bit of the black stuff.