Before moving to Ireland I thought St Patrick’s Day was all about drinking green beer out of large plastic pint cups, crammed into a pub claiming to be Irish, wearing every green piece of clothing you own, singing songs from movies like PS I Love You (extremely drunkenly). Mind you this was my experience of St Paddy’s in South Africa (and one year when I was living in America, in New York) – back then I was single and without a kid, and about a million years younger when hangovers didn’t last 3 days… but still I didn’t really know that if you are Irish, your experience of what St Patrick’s Day means to you might be a little different to how other countries have culturally appropriated the day!
It was only when we arrived here in Ireland that I realised that St Patrick’s Day is really more of a family day! You could definitely still find a cramped bar in Temple Bar and pay over priced, tourist prices for pints if you wanted to! This is obviously not the case this year (or last year for that matter) as St Patrick’s Day parades all over the island of Ireland have been cancelled for the second year in a row this year. But in the before times, there is usually a big parade through the city center (and across Ireland in most big towns, even the smaller villages do a local parade!). Families come out and cheer along the side lines, or actually walk in the parade. It is a wonderful day out for the whole family. This year it is all cancelled and I was feeling a bit sad as usually we have some plan for the public holiday off. We like to use the holiday and day off work to take a few days off and travel and explore Ireland a bit more. Instead, we are at home this year so I had a little trip down memory lane thinking back on all the St Patrick’s Days that we have had whilst living here, and I thought I would share them as some ideas for others. Hopefully next year we will all get to make plans for St Patrick’s Day 2022. Riley will be 2.5yrs old and I can’t wait to see how we can get involved in the community and really get a great family day out (all wearing green which is my fave colour!).
2017 – our first St Patrick’s Day living in Ireland
For our first St Patrick’s Day we decided to go down to Waterford City. At the time I thought it would be a cool city to explore as it is the oldest city in Ireland, we also did not own a car and were keen to travel using only public transport. We took the train from Dublin all the way to Waterford for a long weekend. I actually wrote a blog post about all the wonderful things we did while we were there. In terms of pretty Irish cities, I am sorry to say Waterford is not really one of them. It is an old town, and really the charm of Waterford is in the county of Waterford and not so much the actual city. However as St Patrick’s Day parades go, I loved the parade in Waterford! It was quite a large scale parade, and we were able to get right to the sideline and cheer as people paraded past. I loved this trip, it was at the beginning of what I now know was our hardest year as expats and I feel quite happy that even with all the stress that was happening at the time, we still made St Patrick’s day in Ireland really special and fun!
2018 – our first one with friends visiting from SA
For our second St Patrick’s Day we had my dear friend Jane and her husband Nick staying with us. Jane and I had just finished a 3 day country to country music event that happened at 3 Arena in Dublin. Jane and Nick took a few day trips with a rental car and explored other parts of Ireland but on the weekend, we became tour guides (which if you know me, it is my absolute FAVE thing to do!) and showed them all around Dublin. Nick really wanted to see Temple Bar, and we knew we had to take them to see the St Patrick’s Day Parade (with a stop off to eat donuts!). Many folk living in Ireland for a long time will tell you that spring and the first days of warm weather usually kick off around the 17th of March, St Patrick’s Day however this year in particular was when the Beast from the East rolled in and it snowed – in March!! While we were standing under the Spire (or the Stiffy by the Liffey depending on who you are talking to), we ended up seeing Conor McGregor and his family arrive to see the parade! Honestly I think the whole day was just the best, sharing it with friends, getting dressed up, showing off this lively city that we lived in – the Dublin parade was out of this world and now that I have been, I really do recommend it (although one is enough for me, way too many people!!).
2019 – first trimester, with a serious lack of energy but also a list of places I wanted to see.
On our third St Patrick’s I was pregnant and battling that serious dip of energy that some women experience in the first trimester. Like I had zero energy at all. That did not stop me from planning a little long weekend away. We wanted to tick off a new county in Ireland as we are currently working out way through travelling and exploring all 32 irish counties, so I found a great little airbnb in County Carlow for the weekend. The plan was to go to Carlow to experience the St Patrick’s parade there (I am told that they would have had tractors roll down the road and in fact we got caught behind a few one day too!) but on the actual St Paddy’s Day the weather was a bit miz (rain and wind combo is just not my fave!) and I was so tired for no reason, that we ended up putting on a little fire at the Airbnb and watching the parades across the country on TV. Jack used to like cuddling right around my tummy, I wore my fuzzy onesie and probably ate a bag of chips while Rob had a few pints and we didn’t have to drive anywhere. County Carlow is proper irish country vibes, there is a lot of great places to explore and I have a few friends who have family who live there – so as long St Paddy’s weekends go, even though I spent one day on the couch, we actually got to see quite a lot while we were there – slow travel at its best really.
2020 – first one with Riley, but also, the start of a pandemic
Last year was our fourth St Patrick’s day and let me tell you, I look back and can’t believe that was a year ago – it feels like a few more than that! We had had Rob’s family visit us over Christmas, and our plans for 2020 were to wait till Riley received her passport before making plans like visiting family in SA and travelling in Europe mostly. So with that in mind, and the fact that we now have this yearly tradition of doing something over St Patrick’s Day, and the fact that I was on maternity leave at the time so we could take a few more days than usual (as I have less annual leave than Rob!) I found literally the most magical Airbnb spot on Mizen Head, the most southernly point in Ireland. As the day started to get closer and things started getting uncertain (people buying all the toilet paper in Australia and the news in Italy getting quite terrifying), we were kind of unsure as to go or not. But we decided to chance going away as we knew we would not be visiting with anyone while we were there. The Airbnb was booked all to ourselves and as it turned out, there was plenty of toilet paper out in that part of West Cork! We had a beautiful view of the sea, we sat drinking wine by the fire watching Riley and Jack snooze in their beds… and we worried about the future really if I am honest. We worried what working from home would mean, if our jobs would be Ok, when we would see our family again, and if we would all be safe from this unknown virus. There wasn’t much talk about St Patrick’s day last year, I looked back at the pics and I just put Riley in a little green and yellow cardigan that our Irish friends’ mom knitted, snapped a cute pic and that was that. No parade, no people, and only a little bit of green. It was still one of the best weekends away, the best reset we could have asked for being so far away from everything and everyone – and in hindsight it would be awhile before we could travel like that again, so I am forever grateful that we did it.
2021 – this year, in lockdown still, with a definite middle of the work week vibe
Our fifth St Patrick’s day is this year and it feels a little surreal that we have been living here in Ireland for that long! This year with the restrictions of only being able to travel within 5km of home, not allowed to have any visits or meet ups with friends, unable to go on holiday, and basically parades and pubs etc are all closed, well the plan is we are staying at home. I realised towards the end of last week that I actually had forgotten to get Riley a green outfit this year. I think with all the no-plans for St Patrick’s Day, I just kinda let it slip, and that kind of makes me a little sad actually. Because if this year has taught me anything is that life still goes on, we should still be making an effort, keeping the traditions we can carry on with, going on. So I messaged my mom gang and called in a favour to borrow something green for Riley and then I dug a little deeper in her closet and realised I had a pair of tights and a little green cardigan, so at least there is that. We will all be dressed up in green together on the couch, more than likely we will go out for at least two walks throughout the day, and heck, I might relive my youth and drop a few drops of green food colouring in my wine in celebration of a very green St Patricks Day – our fifth one as expats living in Ireland.
HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED ST PATRICK’S DAY IN IRELAND? WHAT WAS ONE THING YOU ENJOYED?
Happy St Patrick’s Day with love from Ireland,
p.s I write about expat living in Ireland, minimalism and slow travel (when we can travel!). I am mindful about inbox spam and only send out one email newsletter each month, so to be sure you don’t miss out you should sign up and get all the news straight in your inbox – Sign up now!
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