In the days and weeks leading up to St. Patrick’s Day through this year’s Easter Rising Centenary in Dublin, there’s a buzz in the air that’s penetrable in every coffee shop, boutique and bar around the entire city.
Unofficially, the St. Patrick’s Day Festival marks the beginning of tourist season in Ireland. Officially, however, it's a four-day celebration with deep religious roots that commemorates what it means to be Irish.
While the revelry has gone from sacred to secular over the years, especially in America, the festivities still differ across the pond, where nary a green beer, unruly leprechaun, or pinching is in sight (ask a local Dubliner about the last one, and they'll have no idea what you’re talking about).
In contrast, Dublin's celebration centers around the annual parade, and this year's procession saw a crowd of more than half a million people from all over the world. Inspired by the creativity of the youth of Ireland, this year’s theme, “Imagine If,” brought to life a display of brightly colored floats, costumes, and entertainment centered around the future prosperity of Ireland’s culture.
Preceeding 19-year-old disability rights campaigner Joanne O’Riordan who served as this year's Grand Marshal, were ten marching bands from the U.S., the U.K., and Ireland, who played to cheering crowds as they marched past historic landmarks throughout the city. And while there was plenty of entertainment to go around, it was the younger generation, brandishing the flags, colors, and spirit of the country from the sidelines, who were the real stars and sights of this year’s show.
And what does it mean to be Irish you ask? In Dublin at least, it means toasting to a bright and prosperous future. Slainte!
Michelle Gross is a freelance producer at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @mtothegnyc