St. Patrick’s Day anywhere will certainly be a little more unorthodox than most years thanks to the COVID-19 coronavirus. Most events and gatherings of any kind from parades to music festivals have already been canceled—though the residents within reach of Connecticut-based Avery’s Soda can still say ‘cheers,’ or sláinte as the Irish do, with a vibrant green “Coronavirus Cocktail” soda that’s flavored orange-lime. Even if everyone is home-bound for the time being, travel will eventually turn around as the virus wanes, so start planning next year’s celebration now (especially while you can get low airfare!).
If you’re unfamiliar with the Irish term that sums up St. Patrick’s Day pretty well, it’s craic, which means celebrating with good food, good friends and, of course, even better whiskey-one thing the Irish have no shortage of. This year, skip the bogus green Irish paraphernalia and head to The Dead Rabbit in the Financial District of Manhattan. Some consider this Irish pub to be the best in the world, and it’s even helmed by Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry, two very talented bar managers from Belfast. The duo has teamed the bar with Bushmills, the world’s oldest licensed whiskey distillery, for a true celebration of Irish culture and Irish whiskey.
One of the best things to come from the Irish mash-up, apart from some of the best whiskey and whiskey cocktails around, is the tongue-in-cheek “Guide to a Real Irish St. Patrick’s Day,” which was curated by Muldoon and McGarry themselves along with their friends. “As lads growing up in Belfast, Irish pride was always important to us. So this St. Patrick’s Day we’re delighted to be working with Bushmills Irish Whiskey to share what it means to have a REAL IRISH celebration,” said Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry. If that’s not enough, you can always stop by the Bushmills food truck on March 17 too for some free, authentic Irish fare. Oh, you can also enter to win a chance to visit the original Bushmills Distillery in Ireland while you’re at the truck too. That’s something worth celebrating-and a day of drinking that keeps on giving.
Known as the “Emerald Isle of the Caribbean,” this small island was first settled by the Irish in the 17th century. It’s one of the few destinations that actually declares St. Patrick’s Day an official national holiday, and the island even has a shamrock for its passport stamp. Locals and visitors alike flock there to celebrate with a week of festivities that highlight both the local Caribbean culture and their Irish heritage. There’s plenty of traditional, national costumes to admire, vibrant parades with masked street dancers, good food and more than enough beer to go around.
The celebration also marks the anniversary of a failed slave revolt that occurred on St. Patrick’s Day of 1768. Though the slave uprise was not successful, the importance of the event has made it a joint national holiday. Apart from the concerts, pub crawls and other St. Patrick’s Day festivities, there is an African music festival and an event known as the Slave Feast to commemorate the slave culture the island once knew.
In case you didn’t know, the world’s largest shamrock isn’t in Ireland at all. It’s in O’Neill, Nebraska at the intersection of route 281 and highway 20 painted on the road. The immense reminder is just one way the town shows its pride as the Irish capital of the state. When O’Neill was founded by its namesake, John O’Neill, he was a native Irishman and a Civil War veteran and a strong supporter of Irish immigration to the midwest.
Today, to celebrate the town’s Irish history, a wide range of festivities unwinds each year. There’s a hypnotist, a fish fry, for the Catholics observing Lent, and a Children’s Literature Festival that includes a reading of “Green Eggs and Ham.” The residents even wear green on the 17th of every month to remember the town’s heritage and to honor the Blarney stone that sits at the southwest corner of the shamrock intersection.
While there is not a massive or surprising celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in Banwen, Wales each year, it just might be the most upsetting to native Irishmen. The Banwen and District History Club continue to claim that the patron saint of Ireland was actually a Welshman. Their historians believe that St. Patrick is actually Maewyn Succat who was born in Banwen around the year 385. The historians go on to explain that Succat was kidnapped by pirates when he was 16 and sold into slavery in Ireland. Today, members of the organization walk with Welsh pipers in a parade through Banwen toward a stone that is meant to symbolize the birthplace of St. Patrick. So, if you’re looking for controversy, head to Wales to find what they believe is the true homeland of the patron saint.
Dead Rabbit photo courtesy of Getty Images
Montserrat photo used via Creative Commons license from David Stanley’s Flickr account
Currier & Ives lithograph of St. Patrick’s courtesy of Getty Images
Molly Harris is a freelance journalist. You can often find her on the highway somewhere between Florida and North Carolina or taking life slow in Europe.