Dublin hosts a massive festival with events over a few days, but it isn’t the only St. Patrick’s Day party around. Rural towns around the island offer a different kind of charm for our national holiday. Which is more your style?
Ireland’s capital city puts on a dazzling celebration for our national holiday, St. Patrick’s Day. The parade features acts from around the world, and crowds fill the streets to watch them. This year, Dublin’s parade will feature more than a dozen marching bands as well as street theater, puppetry, dance and floats organized by eight of Ireland’s pageant companies.
But the parade is only one event in the city’s planned four days of revelry. There will be themed tours, a fun fair, céilí dancing, theater events, lectures, children’s events, and of course celebrations of stout and whiskey.
Last year Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Festival drew 100,000 visitors from overseas and 12,000 from Northern Ireland. But how many people traveled from other parts of the Republic of Ireland for the events?
We don’t know, but we do know why they might have decided to stay home. Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Festival is a four-day, city-wide party with something for everyone… well, almost everyone. It isn’t the only show in the country, and it isn’t for those who want a more down-to-earth festival with small town charm.
Is Bigger Better?
For those who feel less is more, there are countless parades in towns and villages around the island with a different sort of appeal celebrating our patron saint. The sidewalks will be full, but not so full you can’t move. The floats will be on trucks or on wagons pulled by tractors, and the people will be waving at familiar faces.
You won’t see acts from around the world or professional pageantry. Instead, it’s the local kids marching with their dance troupe or karate school. It’s a local livestock feed company truck with some adorable lambs riding on the flatbed. The primary school principal dressed as St. Patrick. And the tractors. Tractors are an essential element of a village Paddy’s Day parade, and you are likely to see plenty of vintage ones.
Beyond the Pale in the countryside, St. Patrick’s Day parades aren’t about bringing in amazing talent from far afield. They’re about celebrating the community, nurturing the deep roots of interwoven family trees. It’s about walking into town and knowing that you’ll find friends to watch the parade with without organizing anything in advance. It’s about cheering on the local youngsters for their efforts and watching them grow and improve year after year. It’s a chance to celebrate everything we love about traditional village life in Ireland and welcome newcomers with a sincere cead mile failte.
Odds are there will be more besides the parade. The fun fair won’t have thrilling rides, but the little ones will have their faces painted and go wild at the bouncy castle. The teenagers will stand in clusters eyeing each other up and flirting. There might be a local history walking tour or a lecture or poetry reading. Irish dancing events are almost guaranteed.
You won’t be overwhelmed by the variety of options, but you will definitely be impressed with the strong sense of community and local pride you’ll encounter if you have the chance to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in an Irish small town.