Green beer. "Kiss Me I'm Irish" T-shirts. Kinship, camaraderie, and novelty glasses that evoke a certain je ne sais quoi. Here in America, we love St. Patrick's Day, but we're all aware that our festivities might be a little less than strictly traditional.
With the big day fast approaching, it's time to call in an expert.
Courtesy of Seán Connolly.
"The weekends are busy," he told A Plus. "The nightlife's pretty great, especially in Dublin, because you've got like so many [big] venues, but you've also got smaller [ones] with tiny little intimate gigs ... To be honest, I generally don't really mind what we end up doing, as long as I've got a good group of friends."
Seán gave us the lowdown on which "Irish-inspired" St. Patrick's Day traditions might not have originated on the Emerald Isle, and how to live it up like a local here at home.
1. Make it a family affair.
In Ireland, St. Patrick's Day celebrations aren't limited to bar-crawling twentysomethings. During the daylight hours and into the early evening, the whole community gets in on the fun.
"Everyone in the town is just out and about, around the pubs, and kind of like families and parents and everything," Seán said. "Parents will have pints, kids will have little drinks, be running around the place, just playing."
2. Have a violin and tin whistle handy.
Seán called Irish traditional music one of the "best things about Paddy's Day" — although he might not have meant the music you're most familiar with.
"Celtic Woman is the much more accessible and mainstreamized version of trad songs," Seán explained. "If you listen to a Celtic Woman version of a trad song and you listen to an original, a small grouping just kind of getting together and playing roughly, it feels like it's more emotional."
3. It's not all about St. Patrick.
Although here in the U.S. we tend to gather to watch step-dance or more classic representations of Irish culture, things are a little different across the pond. Local parades feature performances representative of the community's cultural diversity, and might include Chinese dragon dances or marchers dressed in traditional Indian garb.
According to Seán, the change has been very recent — and very welcome. "It's just celebrating the difference of cultures, and how everyone comes together and has a great time."
4. Have at least one Guinness.
"You need to have a pint of Guinness," Seán said. "I know it's the most stereotypical drink that you could possibly get, but [it's far more Irish] than green beer."
The first Guinness was brewed in Dublin in 1759 by local businessman Arthur Guinness, and has long-established roots in Irish culture. Seán's advice is to make the dry stout the first drink of the night, and then branch out. A handcrafted cocktail, perhaps? We recommend a Crown Apple Cooler by Fridays, complete with pomegranate, organic agave, and some deliciously smoky whiskey.
5. Leave the slogan tee at home.
"Kiss Me I'm Irish"-printed shirts have definitely been worn by an actual Irish person before, but only with a fair degree of irony.
"We don't really know where it came from, but we don't really mind," Seán said with a chuckle. "If we go over to America, we're like, 'Hey, kiss me I'm Irish,' and everyone's like, 'Yeah, wahey!' and we just kind of have fun."
6. But do go green.
In Ireland, it's totally cool — and expected — to get into the spirit of the day by dressing up. The top must-have accessory? A clump of real, live shamrocks — "not the plastic kind." Green face paint, leprechaun hats, and sparkly novelty glasses are also welcome additions. Put your Emerald Isle pride on full display.
7. It's OK to celebrate your way.
You don't have to perfectly mirror Dublin's street parties or aspire to the parades of County Cork to have a good time. Tradition isn't everything — according to Seán, it was only recently that places in Ireland decided to begin dying their rivers green, a practice that originated in Chicago.
"I think last year might have been the first year we did it — just because other places started doing it. We were like, 'Well, we should probably start doing it because we're Ireland and can't be left out,'" Seán said with a chuckle.
The most important thing, of course, is to spend it with friends.
Although in Ireland St. Patrick's Day can take on a truly epic scale, what's more important is who you're celebrating with. This year, Seán plans to stay local and "hang out with friends, have a few drinks, and just enjoy the general vibe of the day."
"The atmosphere of the day is always kind of the best part, because we're Irish, and the entire world is kind of making a big deal about Irishness and being Irish, and we just love it," he said.