St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday in Ireland. I only make the distinction because in Minnesota it isn’t a holiday, but we celebrate like it is. I was told before going to Ireland that they don’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day like we do, as it’s a religious holiday. They were wrong.
I caught the 10:20 (or so) train into Dublin for the noon (or so) parade (again, time is somewhat relative in Ireland). On the way to the station, I noticed a lot of people going to church, as it is a religious holiday. The train station, however, was packed with families all dressed in variations of green, orange and white, usually with odd headgear. We were crushed together in the train, as many people as possible were packed in there (kind of like taking light rail to the Twins game).
At Connelly Station, I got off and walked down Turner Street to O’Connell Street, which was the parade route. O’Connell Street is a main thoroughfare in Dublin named for Daniel O’Connell and monuments of Irish heroes line the street. There were a lot of stores open and many street vendors, all selling cheesy St. Patrick’s stuff that people were frenziedly buying – hats, scarves, flags, wigs. I bought a rosette in white, green and orange that said “Happy St. Patrick’s Day”. Orange, green and white are Ireland’s national colors and it’s what most people wear on St. Patrick’s Day; of course here in the US we wear primarily green.
It was also noisy – whistles and horns being blown. Pompoms and flags waved. I walked down O’Connell to the river and back north to just north of the needle, people watching and finding a spot. I stood in my spot for a good hour before the parade started (about 12:20 or so). By then, the crowd had mushroomed. I was maybe 3 people back from the railing and there were 3 or 4 more behind me, all crushing in. It wasn’t too bad while the parade was going on, but by the end I was ready to get out of the crush.
The parade itself is nothing like our 4th of July parades back home, which basically consist of people in trucks throwing candy. This was an actual parade. No candy was thrown. There were pre-parade performers. Bands (including ones from the US and Germany), costumed and made-up individuals, floats (including a NASA float, a mechanical snapping dragon – my favorite – a hot air balloon and soaring bird –also a favorite), a few horses, including a horse-drawn carriage, carrying the Lord Mayor, someone said, the army, a few cars (including VW bugs for some reason) and a motorcycle group.
There were flags representing every county in Ireland and one troop carrying large plaster items on their backs (a harp, dog, cow, bookcase, the significance of which was lost on me). One colorful, costumed unit dressed as flowers twirled to the Beatles “Here Comes the Sun” (apropos). It was noisy, colorful, musical, and flew by.