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Image / Editorial

My first time in Dublin for St Patrick’s Day and I have no idea what I’m in for


by Brenna O'Donnell
16th Mar 2018
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I’m in Penneys staring at a rack of green polyester, trying to pick out the least cliched accessories for Saturday. And it’s really hard. Between the bow ties and top hats, there aren’t many options that don’t shout ‘plastic paddy’ all the way across the Liffey and back again.

As an American studying abroad in Dublin, being in the capital of Ireland during St. Patrick’s Day is one of the things I’m most looking forward to while I’m here. Back home, Americans love a chance to celebrate whatever minuscule percentage of Irish they have in them, and for some, binge drinking is a welcome endeavour. We dye the Chicago River green. We turn the Empire State Building into a beacon of emerald. Virtually every city with a population above 10,000 has its own St.’Pattie’s’ Parade.

I’ve spent my last two March 17ths in the heart of New York City, so I’m excited, nervous, and (most of all) curious about spending this rambunctious holiday in its country of origin. Weirdly enough, a lot of Americans have asked one question: “Do they really celebrate it over there?” People in the US recognise that they turn March 17th into a caricature of Irish culture. They can’t imagine that the tried-and-true Irish themselves would want to participate in the same way they do.

I’ve always found it seriously impressive that so many countries, ethnic backgrounds and religions celebrate St Patrick’s Day. At orientation for my study abroad program, our Cork-native professor called this nothing more than “good marketing” of Ireland. He had a point. The Irish take over of the US includes Irish flags, shamrocks, leprechauns and Guinness. And of course, everyone and their cat prances around, chest out, claiming to be a fraction Gaelic.  

So what do I actually expect of St Patrick’s Day while in Dublin? Well, according to the many shopkeepers and bartenders I’ve spoken to; “I have absolutely no idea what I’m in for.” I’ve heard hints like: you won’t be able to move no matter what pub you’re in; that the parade is totally brilliant and that everyone is suddenly remarkably good friends. As for my own plans? Pacing myself on the drinking so that I’ll be able to take in all aspects of this special experience.

As the festivities grow closer and the buzz surrounding it grows louder, I think that I’ll be able to come back to the US and confidently tell them; “Oh, they definitely celebrate it over there all right. But it’s called St Paddy’s.”