Everyone and anyone who claims to have any Irish ancestry – and plenty who don’t – celebrates St. Patrick’s Day. Although it’s only a public holiday in a few countries, the whole world seems to love this day. Famous buildings around the world turn their lights green, rivers get painted, and the day is known for the best time of the year to drink Guinness, wear all your green clothes and a symbolic shamrock. But there is far more that you can do to honour this occasion and immerse yourself into Irish culture.
Start with going back to the motherland and experience the real Ireland, and I don’t mean just Dublin. Some locals still call it the “real capital of Ireland” and Cork has lived up to its (locally known) name. The city is located in the southwest coast on the River Lee, with its town centre situated on an island – kind of like Manhattan but with no skyscrapers. The city’s waterways and seventeenth-century architecture have brought the modern hipster hive with artsy cafes and bars. But don’t worry, the traditional Irish pubs are around the corner. Literally, every corner.
If you find yourself visiting Cork for Paddy’s weekend, join the Cork St. Patrick’s Festival – you can’t miss it, just follow the colour. A must-see attraction is the Blarney Castle, and the kissing of the stone. The stone, which is set on the wall below the battlements, is believed to bring the gift of eloquence. The city offers a plentiful of markets and museum to help you get to know the Irish culture better.
The Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province and non-Irish territory where St. Patrick’s Day is an official provincial holiday. Cape Spear – near the town of St John’s – is the most eastern part of North America and, therefore, closest to Ireland. Newfoundland province celebrates on the Monday closest to March 17 so it’s more of a week of celebrating the Irish than just a day of drinking. With the numerous parades and the massive amounts of Irish people living in St John’s, the town is probably your best shout for a good celebration outside Ireland.
To celebrate the Irish culture, other Canadian cities such as Toronto and Montreal organise three-day festivals and parades. Montreal is known as one of Canada’s hotspots for the day. If you are heading to Canada for a short period you wouldn’t have to worry about visas but you need to get an Electronic Travel Authorisation and present correct travel documents.
The Emerald Island of the Caribbean is also not to be missed, especially if you would like to be somewhere hotter on this great day. Montserrat is the only country outside Ireland where St Patrick’s Day is a public holiday. When arriving in Montserrat, your passport will receive a shamrock-shaped stamp, and it all dates back to the 17th century when more than half of the population of the Caribbean island were Irish.
The influence of the Emerald Country is still crucial for the island’s culture today. St Patrick’s Day is more than just a day in Montserrat, it is a week-long festival and the biggest annual event on the island. The festival merges Irish and African heritage with traditional Caribbean entertainment. The festival is more than just a day drinking and exotic music. The events include a freedom run, parade in the national dress, public talks and dancing – a lot of dancing.
Although it is in the Caribbean, Montserrat is a British Overseas Territory so you don’t need a visa if you have a valid British passport. When you leave the country there will be a charge of EC$25 for residents or EC$45 for non-residents embarkation tax and an additional security charge of EC$10 for every passenger departing from John A Osborne Airport.
It is important to know that to enter Montserrat you will be required to have a certificate for yellow fever vaccination.
Although the day is not a national holiday, St Patrick was a patron saint of Nigeria and millions of Catholics live in the country. If you find yourself in Abuja or Lagos for the day you will experience a different St Patrick ’s Day than the rest of the world. There will still be Guinness but this time it will be a locally brewed maize-made Guinness which is widely popular in the country and contains 7.5% alcohol – a very different experience. Nigerians have a lot of national festivals but refuse to hold a St Patrick’s day parade and wear green, so don’t bring you wig and green, or white and orange face paint. The Irish Embassy in Nigeria actually organises a high-profile celebrations in the capital Abuja as well as Lagos.
Going to Nigeria would require a little bit more preparation that the rest of Paddy’s countries. All British citizens must apply for a visa before embarking to Nigeria as you cannot apply for one on arrival. Apart from your visa, you need to make sure that your passport will be valid for a minimum of six months from the date of your entry to the country. You will need to visit a health professional at least four to six weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations.
By Plamena Manolova