Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland

Spend the international day of Irish pride on the Emerald Isle.

Down Cathedral in Downpatrick

Photo: Alamy

It’s said that everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day—and nowhere will you find that more irrefutable than on the Emerald Isle, where the holiday (if not every custom now commonly linked to it) was born. It all began way back in the fifth century A.D. with Ireland’s beloved St. Patrick, a Romano-British Christian missionary who spent much of his life evangelizing to the then-pagan Irish, using the three-leafed shamrock, now the national symbol of Ireland, as a visual aid to help explain the Holy Trinity. By the seventh century, St. Patrick would be revered as the patron saint of Ireland.

Musicians performing in Galway

Photo: Alamy

Today, St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland is a green-hued celebration of Irish heritage and pride; Americans may be surprised to find that the Irish focus less on Guinness and Irish whiskey and more on honoring Ireland’s timeless culture and traditions. Since the mid 1990s, the Irish government has organized the official St. Patrick’s Day Festival, which now spans four full days in greater Dublin and includes numerous Irish dance and music performances, Irish storytelling sessions, open-air screenings of Irish films, St. Patrick-themed walking tours and massive fireworks over the River Liffey. Many of Dublin’s most iconic locations—like Trinity College, Christ Church Cathedral and St. Patrick’s Cathedral—are awash in green throughout the festival.

In nearby Howth, an easy 30-minute train ride from central Dublin, the three-day Dublin Bay Prawn Festival neatly coincides with the St. Patrick’s Day holiday and offers a great chance to experience a more intimate Irish event. Prawns, naturally, are the stars of this fun food-focused festival, which features demonstrations by local fishermen, live cooking exhibitions, wine tastings, music and street entertainment.

Parade float passing Christ Church cathedral in Dublin

Photo: Alamy

Of course, the highlight of any St. Patrick’s Day is the parade, and in Ireland, these processions are the most creative and carnivalesque St. Patrick’s Day parades in the world. The parade in Dublin is the country’s largest; more than half a million green-clad Irish and visitors cheer on its 3,000 or so participants. Cork, in Ireland’s south, and Downpatrick, in Northern Ireland, boast two more of the island’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parades; the saint’s remains are buried in the graveyard in the Down Cathedral in the Downpatrick. In Galway, the parade takes on a strong theatrical focus thanks largely to the local Macnas performance company; many of the city’s top artists showcase their talents.

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland is a great reason to visit the Emerald Isle. Ask your AAA Travel Counselor how you can join the festivities next year.

Ireland awaits and AAA Travel offers a number of ways to visit! Contact a AAA Travel Counselor for details and ask about exclusive AAA Member benefits.

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Marco Ruiz, AAA Travel Counselor, Monterey, Calif.

I love to suggest Italy and Spain because of the culture and the flair of the people–their fashions, language and way of life. They take time to enjoy life's pleasures. When you're there, you feel it, too.

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