St. Patrick’s Day has traditionally been an important holiday in Ireland, but more of a low-key affair across the country, compared to the raucous celebrations that take place in cities across the U.S. But that has changed over the past few years, as the Emerald Isle has amped up the festivities with events like the St. Patrick’s Day Festival in Dublin that takes place from March 17th – 20th.
Teeling Whiskey Co. founder Jack Teeling has fond recollections of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland. “It was always a family occasion for me, and my main memories are of going to see the parade with my parents (and freezing my ass off!),” he said. “This is still the main thing throughout the country, with most small towns having a parade of some kind, which is very family-focused. There is, of course, an occasion for a drink or two, but it is definitely not like the level of partying seen in the U.S.”
But times have changed. In 1996, the first St. Patrick’s Day Festival in Dublin was a single-day event; it’s now grown into a multi-day extravaganza that draws hundreds of thousands of tourists and locals alike. It’s a huge celebration that takes over the city, with revelers attired in shamrock-wear and green clothing, drinking copious amounts of beer and whiskey, and a lot of drunken teenagers roaming the streets.
“The city center gets a bit messy and uncomfortable in the late afternoon,” said Teeling, who, through his distillery, is trying to elevate the tone of the festivities in Dublin. “We are trying to work with accounts in the city to bring a bit more of a sophisticated experience around St Patrick’s Day, as there is definitely an appetite for it. We are hosting a spoken word (The Moth) event on the 17th and our craft fair event to showcase like minded artisanal Dublin based food and drink producers on the 19th.”
The theme of this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Festival in Dublin is “Imagine If…”, focusing on the future of Dublin, and Ireland as a whole, while paying tribute to the country’s rich history. Events this year include the aforementioned Moth StorySLAM, a youth-oriented look at Dublin called look-see RUN, a history of Ireland from the viewpoint of Irish centenarians called Older Than Ireland, traditional Irish dancing at the Festival Céilíand, and a live performance by the 1960s Irish folk-rocker Donovan at the National Concert Hall.
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Paschal Donohoe sees the growth of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Ireland as a huge boon for the county’s economy, tourism industry, and heritage. “With more than 100,000 overseas visitors coming to Ireland to help us celebrate our national day, the Festival kicks off the tourist season in a most spectacular way,” he said in a press release, adding that the festival generates an estimated €73m in additional revenue for the country.
One thing you generally won’t find, according to Jameson Senior Brand Manager Hannah O’Leary, is green beer. “Except for maybe in Temple Bar and touristy places, but otherwise no green beer,” she said. She sees the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland as going well beyond the parties and massive parade that traverses the city center. “For me the connection is emotional as well as spiritual to the Irish spirit. For Irish people, St. Patrick’s Day is more of a cultural celebration. And we drink, that’s part of our culture, that’s in it too,” she said, laughing. “But sometimes if you just do the crazy drinking part, you miss the nicer parts [of the holiday].”