St. Patrick's Day 2019

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On March 17, people around the world pay tribute to Saint Patrick and celebrate what it means to be Irish. While the parades of New York, Buenos Aires and Tokyo each have their own distinctive flavour, there’s no better place to be on the day than Ireland – and even more so, Ireland’s Ancient East – the land the great man himself traversed by foot, baptising pagan kings and bringing Christianity to the country.

Reginald's Tower in Waterford's Viking Triangle
The impressive Rock of Cashel, Co Tipperary
Left: Reginald's Tower in Waterford's Viking Triangle | Right: The magnificent Rock of Cashel, Co. Tipperary

Waterford 

The feast of Saint Patrick has been celebrated since medieval times. But it was only in the mid-17th century that Waterford-born Franciscan friar Luke Wadding, tasked with re-organising the calendar of saints, included Saint Patrick for the first time – making the 17th of March the official day of Ireland's national patron.

Fr Wadding's hometown of Waterford – an ancient place founded by Vikings – was the first city to mark St Patrick's Day as a national holiday in 1903, when the Waterford Corporation declared a general celebration citywide. For the 2019 Waterford City St Patrick's Day Parade, the city will celebrate 'Colour, Culture and Community' with the route starting at the Glen and continuing down the Quay, proceeding along the Mall and finishing at the Bishop's Palace. 
 

Tipperary

Follow in Saint Patrick's footsteps in Tipperary and stand atop the iconic Rock of Cashel, often called St Patrick’s Rock – where the saint reputedly converted King Aonghus to Christianity. Legend has it that during the ceremony, Saint Patrick accidentally thrust his crozier (a staff with a sharp pointed end) through the foot of King Aonghus – who didn’t even flinch. When Patrick later took the king aside to find out why he had stayed silent, poor Aonghus admitted that he thought the stabbing was part of the baptismal ritual!

Alternatively, visit peaceful St Patrick’s Well in Clonmel, one of the largest holy wells in all of Ireland; or wander along the Track of Saint Patrick’s Cow (Rian Bó Phádraig) – an old countryside path pilgrims and traders followed for centuries, stretching from Cashel in Tipperary over the mountains to Lismore in County Waterford. 

Patrick's travels took a less tranquil turn in Lorrha when an attempt was made on his life. To save Saint Patrick, his charioteer Odran sacrificed himself – suffering a fatal blow intended for Patrick, and becoming Ireland's first Christian martyr in the process. But rest assured, Tipperary is more hospitable now – in Cashel, this year's St Patrick's Parade theme is 'Cashel 700', in celebration of the 700th birthday of the town.

The Hill of Tara at dusk
Kilkenny Castle goes green for St Patrick's Day
Paarticipants in the Kilkenny St Patrick's Day Parade
Left: The Hill of Tara at dusk | Middle: Kilkenny Castle goes green for St Patrick's Day | Right: Paarticipants in the Kilkenny St Patrick's Day Parade

Meath

Tales tell of Saint Patrick travelling first to the Hill of Tara in County Meath – the seat of the High Kings of Ireland, and the political and religious centre of the country – in order to confront the ancient pagan religion at its most powerful site.


Every spring equinox, a great blaze on the Hill of Tara was the first fire lit – by royal decree, it was forbidden for any other fires to be burning while this festival fire was aglow. The legend goes that in 433, Saint Patrick defied pagan High King Laoire's ban, and lit a Paschal fire on the neighbouring Hill of Slane. It's said that Laoire was so impressed by Patrick's courage that he allowed him to continue his missionary work in Ireland.   


This year in addition to a parade, the Navan Shamrock Festival has a wide range of free events for children such as a puppet show, a magic show and balloon modelling. 


Wicklow

You might say that the disciple who Saint Patrick sent to Wicklow to convert the locals initially met with some resistance – he had his teeth knocked out by them, and became known as Mantan or Manntach, "the toothless one". Undeterred, the intrepid missionary went on to found a church in Wicklow, and this is thought to be the origin of the Irish name for the county, Cill Mhantáin – “church of the toothless one”.

These days you can encounter much friendlier locals who are hosting a St Patrick's Day Parade  in Wicklow Town


Kilkenny

In the medieval city of Kilkenny, St Patrick's Festival is celebrated with a four-day weekend of events. Kilkenny Tradfest is central to the celebration and sees many Irish traditional musicians, singers and dancers participating in a cultural feast for the senses. Showcasing the very best in Irish trad music and folk in a variety of venues all around the city, Tradfest locales include Kilkenny Castle, the brand new Medieval Mile Museum, and the stunning St Canice’s Cathedral.

This year's parade is focussing on Kilkenny's new county mascot, the bumblebee by using the theme "Bring the Bees Back'.

Set dancers getting into the swing of things
Two little girls enjoying St Patrick's Day
Left: Set dancers get in the swing of things | Right: Two little girls enjoying St Patrick's Day

Cork 

As one of Ireland's cultural hotspots and the second largest city in the country, Cork is known for pulling out all the stops on St Patrick's Day. This year is no different, with a festival running over the weekend full of fun for all the family. The theme for 2019 is 'Stories of Cork' with community groups coming together to share their tales. 

Cork's St Patrick's Festival has a carnival of citywide colour, music and pageantry planned – with a parade, the trad Lee Sessions in pubs all over town and many other events to choose from.
 

Some other local highlights...

And that's not all – throughout Ireland's Ancient East, towns and villages will celebrate with parades, festivals and events. To name just a couple, Clane in County Kildare will present a St Patrick's Festival with a parade built around the theme of 'Bringing Community Together' – while in County Monaghan at Lough Muckno in Castleblayney, you can enjoy a relaxing day out at their St Patrick's Fishing Festival. So no matter where you go, you are sure to find some festive fun.
 

And if you happen to be blessed with the name of Patrick or Patricia...

Or any of the versions or nicknames thereof, look out for freebies and special offers in Ireland around St Patrick's Day. You'll find one example at Hook Head Lighthouse in Wexford, where Patricks, Pats, Paddys, Patricias, Pattys etc. can avail of a free tour!

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