Saint’s Alive: It’s St Patrick’s Day

St Patrick’s Day isn’t just a national holiday. It’s an all-out festival, with parades, parties, fireworks and fun bursting into life all over the country.

The world goes green for March 17th, but Ireland is hands-down the best place to be.

Think of it as our big birthday bash. St Patrick’s Day sees Irish people let down their hair for massive street parties, but it’s also a time to celebrate the talent and achievements of a small country with a big heart.

Book early, and you’ll not only get a ringside seat, but the very best flight and accommodation deals, too!

Party people

Don’t believe us? Listen to Darragh Doyle, a Community Manager working with Riverdance and Heart of Home, among other projects. Darragh has been volunteering at the St Patrick’s Festival for a decade.

“Why is Dublin special around March 17th? The people,” he says.

“From the crews erecting barriers, stages and floats to fellow volunteers stewarding, guiding and assisting; from entertainers with painted faces and colorful costumes to tourists hungry for green and locals having the craic; the atmosphere – particularly around the Parade Route – is always that bit special.”

Dublin’s St Patrick’s Festival kicks off on Friday, March 14th, with events including a festival Céilí (bring your dancing shoes…or stilettos, if you dare), funfairs, a festival treasure hunt, a 5km road race, street performers and, of course, the spectacularly colorful festival parade itself on March 17th.

Northern lights

Looking for some Northern soul on St Patrick’s Day?

Northern Ireland has a jam-packed program of festivities, from street carnivals to open-air concerts and themed walks. Belfast’s annual carnival parade departs City Hall at 12pm, and Derry/Londonderry’s spring carnival offers two days of street theatre, music, crafts, drama, dancing and storytelling.

Other events around the island range from a festival with a ‘Legends’ theme in Cork (March 15-17), to Limerick’s ‘Parade of Patricks’, an attempt to break the record for the most people dressed as St Patrick in one place (March 17) during its host year as Ireland’s City of Culture.

Meet the locals

“My favorite thing about the St Patrick's Festival is that many of the volunteers are non-Irish,” says Darragh Doyle. “They do it to meet each other, make friends, improve their English and contribute to the city they live in. They give as much time, commitment and energy as the locals do.”

There's genuine optimism, enthusiasm and indulgence in the paddywhackery and fun around the parade, he adds. “Nothing beats the delight of seeing people, young and old, local or visiting, shy away from a roaring dragon, laugh at a street entertainer or dance an impromptu jig… The fun is infectious.”

Follow St Patrick’s footsteps

Interest in St Patrick isn’t limited to March 17th, of course.

Ireland’s patron saint wore out a fair amount of shoe-leather during his time on the island. In Northern Ireland, Saint Patrick’s Trail is a 92-mile driving route taking in stops like the Saul Church in Strangford (where Patrick began his mission) and Down Cathedral (where he is buried).

Whether you’re a saint or a scholar, don’t miss the interpretive Saint Patrick’s Centre in Downpatrick or St Patrick’s Trian in Armagh. In Dublin, St Patrick’s Cathedral rises as a fitting tribute to the saint, while the scree-covered slopes of Croagh Patrick overlooking Mayo’s Clew Bay peaks as a physical but spiritual challenge for pilgrims.

You see, told you there were lots of reasons to book early, and let the celebrations begin! See you here…