If you think about it, St. Patrick’s Day is a weird holiday. You celebrate a holy man’s accomplishments by acting in a most unholy way. Anyone who is so inclined can become temporarily Irish. And, of course, everything from milkshakes to bagels to beer is colored green as part of the celebration. On the surface, it’s easy to celebrate St. Pat’s Day. All you need is something green to wear, a willingness to guzzle Guinness, and an appetite for corned beef and cabbage. Yet, as some of you newcomers will find, Bostonians take St. Pat’s very seriously. I’ve experienced St. Pat’s in both New York and Dublin, and I can honestly say that Boston’s celebration is as wild as any. Dublin may have a better municipal celebration and NY is typically on a grander scale, but Bostonians just seem to care more. Beantown’s Irish population is famously proud of their heritage, and what their celebration lacks in fanfare they compensate for with intensity.
Bars gleefully anticipate the holiday and make every effort to attract crowds on the town’s biggest drinking night of the year. Those that book bands and serve the right menu expect many patrons to arrive early and stay all day. At some bars, people line up well in advance of their opening in hopes of getting a place to sit before the masses arrive. By mid-afternoon, the bars are full and the party is in full swing. By nighttime the bigger pubs will be at capacity with lines outside.
When going out for your obligatory pint, be prepared to shop around. Expect (but don’t settle for) long waits at the bar and jostling crowds. Long lines for admission could translate into over an hour wait before finally entering the bar. Bigger pubs like The Harp, The Black Rose, The Burren and The Kells will be the busiest. These bars are the first choice of drunken college kids and are quickly overwhelmed. Smaller bars like The Field, The Druid, Brendan Behan’s, and The Plough and the Stars will also be packed but should be easier to deal with due to their smaller size. The bartender to patron ratio is an important factor to keep in mind. Also, try to limit the size of your group so you’ll be able to stay together in a crowded room. If you can get to an out of the way location it may be worth the trip to avoid the T-dependent undergrads.
Going out for St. Pat’s can be a great time if you find the right pub. With a little bit of planning and some luck of the Irish, you’ll have a great time joining in the festivities. Of course, you don’t have to go anywhere, you can always stay home with a six-pack of Guinness and some Lucky Charms, but it isn’t really the same thing. Part of the fun of St. Pat’s is the group aspect. A crowded bar somehow seems more tolerable when everyone is wearing green. Whatever you do, have a good time doing it. Slainte!