Put on your leprechaun hats, dust off that “Kiss me, I’m Irish!” T-shirt, and get ready to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day just like the good people on the auld Emerald Isle! Right?
As March 17 again approaches, many Irish locals are preparing for a collective eye-roll and a collective smirk as they pocket the sudden surge of international goodwill and (ironically green) American cash. This isn’t to say that the day isn’t important to them, nor that they won’t be celebrating, but their observation of the feast of their patron saint won’t involve any green-dyed Coors Light.
First, the name of the day in Ireland is either “Saint Patrick’s Day” or “Paddy’s Day.” (Or “Lá Fhéile Pádraig” on government documents required to use the Irish language.) There is no “Saint Patty’s Day” in Ireland. Spell “Paddy” with Ts and you’ll be labeled as a blow-in before you open your mouth to ask about the Blarney Stone. The Irish version of Saint Patrick’s name is, as above, Pádraig—pronounced “PAW-drig” or “PAW-rig”—which is Paddy, not Patty, in the diminutive. You’ll also be hard pressed to find the four-leaf clover on anything but ironic or tourist cash-in memorabilia; Paddy’s preferred plant was the common three-leafer, which he used to demonstrate the Holy Trinity to the fifth-century Pagans as he tried to sell them on the new trend sweeping Europe at the time: Christianity.
But thankfully, there is plenty to do in Dublin—and around Ireland—to celebrate the old saint for born-and-bred locals and temporary Irish alike. Below is a sampling of some of my favorites for a wild four-day weekend of green fun, presented by the always well-done Saint Patrick’s Festival.
Thursday, March 17
- The Past is Present: Lunchtime Talk Series – Ireland celebrates the 100-year anniversary of the Easter Rising just two weeks after the Paddy’s Day party, and the festival is recognizing this important historical occasion with a series of free historical lectures.
- Irish Plants for Saint Patrick’s Day – The incomparable National Botanic Gardens has arranged a special tour of their native Irish species, with an emphasis on conservation of the threatened and endangered of the plants that gave the Emerald Isle her nickname.
- Festival Parade – My advice? Get a good spot early.
Friday, March 18
- Free Screening of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – The Chester Beatty Library—one of my favorite free museums in the city—regularly screens free educational and entertaining family films for the community. Continuing this series, they’ll be showing this not-really-Irish-but-who-the-heck-cares classic on Friday afternoon.
Saturday, March 19
- Festival Treasure Hunt – My annual Paddy’s Day favorite. I haven’t missed one yet, and don’t plan to miss it this year. Registration is free, the swag bags are legit, and you can get free admission to some of Dublin’s paid attractions in the name of collecting an answer for your treasure hunt sheet. What could be better?
- Irish Craft Beer and Whiskey Village – Pop in for a taste of modern Irish craft beers and aged whiskies at the RDS. Check the schedule for a guided tasting or masterclass and meet the hardworking brewers and distillers of this growing Irish industry.
Sunday, March 20
- Dublin Bay Prawn Festival – Head north to Howth for a celebration of shellfish (say that three times fast) in all their delicious final forms. Watch cooking demonstrations from top chefs and make sure to try the star of the show—Nephrops norvegicus, the giant shrimp of the northern Atlantic—prepared in paellas, curries, and skewers in the food tent.
- Greening the City – Not really a scheduled event, but a nice way to wrap up any day of the festival. Iconic buildings around the city—and many around the world—will be illuminated in green each night to reflect the color of the saint and the season. Dozens of Dublin skyline staples will be participating, so you’re sure to see a few on your way home.