By Isabella Gentleman
Visiting Student Blogger, St. Olaf College
Being in Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day feels an awful lot like being in the United States for the Fourth of July, sans warm summer weather and fireworks. But as an American, St. Patrick’s Day felt even more magical than that, maybe because of the Leprechauns and Pirate Queens, but more so because of the spirit and excitement even the Irish have about celebrating and getting the day to spend time with others. Yes, Dublin City – Temple Bar especially – is filled with tourists and teenagers looking for silly ways to spend the holiday, but there are so many ways to celebrate and enjoy this holiday without finding a pub or trying to squeeze your way through Temple Bar, with everyone and their brother, that night!
Even for the days leading up to the Holiday, people and friends were already beginning to wish me a Happy St. Patrick’s Day, just like someone would wish you A Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays in December. The Irish are already a friendly people, but when it comes to having fun, they wouldn’t wish that away from anyone! It made the whole week feel that much more festive and exciting, just like the excitement I always feel for weeks before December 25th.
On the day itself, friends and I wanted to head out early to the parade to see all the excitement in the city before it got particularly crazy. From Trinity we walked through Temple Bar, which was very busy for that time of day, but still manageable to walk through, and so very festive! Irish dancers were on the street with their hard shoes, dancing to some wonderful live trad music. Temple Bar had hung a large banner welcoming and wishing those around the world a Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Once we walked out of Temple Bar through to Dame Street there were even more people out and about enjoying each other’s company and looking for places to set up for the parade.
More and more families with their little ones decked out in green were making their way through the crowds, even the Guards were excited to wish you a Happy St. Paddy’s Day! Christchurch’s grounds were filled with food stands and craftsmen, and it smelled delicious. Being the Patron Saint of Ireland, it is wonderful to see how festive even the churches get for the holiday, lighting up green at night, and holding Irish music concerts, and an ecumenical service for all to enjoy on the night.
We continued on through the crowds down to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where we found a perfect place to camp out for watching the parade, and got to meet and talk with lots of others who had come from all over the world. Across from where we stood were women painting faces, and of course I spent the 3euro to get my face painted with sparkles and shamrocks!
Even little babies had green sweaters and little leprechaun hats! It was cold and rainy, the perfect Irish day, and even though I couldn’t feel my toes after a couple of minutes, the energy in the crowd leading up to the parade made it seem like the sun was shining.
The parade starts at 12 noon all the way on Parnell Street, so it was about 1:45pm by the time it reached St. Patrick’s. It is quite long, with many marching bands, different themed colorful floats, and dancers dressed up to go along with each of them! The parade this year was celebrating Ireland, and so before each float came banners reading “Ireland is…”!
It was amazing to see all the little things the Irish are proud of. From 200 years of cycling in Dublin, to celebrating the flora and fauna on the island, and the legend of the Pirate queen, the Dubliners who danced through the city that day were so happy and excited to be celebrating their beautiful country, and what St. Patrick had done for them. The Irish have many traditions and legends of which they are proud, but St. Patrick’s Day and the days leading up to it were the first time I had seen the most pride from all the Irish. Even the little kids dancing on their balcony above the parade were excited to be celebrating!
The best part is the city started celebrating this year on Thursday night before the holiday, and didn’t stop until Monday! The buildings, including both Cathedrals, Dublin Castle, Trinity, Bank of Ireland, and hotels on O’Connell Street were lit up with green each night after dark, and you couldn’t look up Grafton Street without seeing a sea of green on the heads of all the tourists excited to be in the home of the holiday!
After the parade ended, there were inevitably a crazy number of people walking the streets, and Guards patrol all of City Centre all weekend to make sure the number of people in and out of the pubs were kept under control, but the holiday was so much more than all the tourists enjoying their pints. Dublin puts on a list of culture and historical events throughout the weekend, and some of the local pubs and restaurants are filled with the locals wishing the next person a Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Lots of native Irish in Dublin sometimes avoid town or opt for their own celebrations, but as a visiting student wanting to experience the most of the city I have been able to call home, being out and about for the St. Patrick’s Festival was well worth it. Make the most of the celebration! Wish others a Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and wear green just like the Irish. Give the Guards a high five as they walk up and down the parade route patrolling, and raise a glass to the wonderful culture and history which surrounds you both this day and every day during your time in Dublin, Ireland. Sláinte!