A boisterous place already, festivals in Ireland involve traditional cultural celebrations with varied musical styles, film, the performing arts, food and drink, Catholic religious and pagan events such as Halloween. The biggest shindig of the year is St Patrick’s Day, honoring the birthday of Ireland’s patron saint with huge parades across the country and wherever there’s an Irish community in the world.
St Patrick’s Day
The biggest and most spectacular of all Ireland’s festivals, St Patrick’s Day in March is celebrated with parades of marching bands, town dignitaries, schools, local clubs and law enforcement. Every town and village in the Republic has its own event, and ‘wearing of the green’ is seen all over the land. Dublin’s parade is the best, while the pubs serve green Guinness to revelers all night long.
Galway Oyster and Seafood Festival
Foodies on vacation in September should head for Galway City, the heart of Ireland’s oyster industry for a delicious few days of feasting on the finest seafood. All the city’s restaurants set up a food village serving delights. There’s an oyster-shucking contest and boat trips to the oyster beds to enjoy. The Tales by the Sea features highlights and history of the fishing industry in Galway, and a Mardi-Gras parade, musical event and kids’ day make sure everyone has a great time.
Cork Folk Festival
The Cork Folk Festival takes place over a weekend in October, attracting the stars of traditional Irish music for performances in concert halls, open-air venues, pubs and bars. Set dancing, lectures and workshops complement the musical events and the festival draws audiences from all over the world.
One of the most ancient of all Irish festivals, the origins of October’s Halloween (All Hallows’ Eve) go back to pagan times. Celebrated by the Celts as the Feast of the Dead, nowadays people dress as costumed witches, ghouls and ghosts. Families carve jack ‘o lanterns, children go trick and treating, and bonfires are lit to ward off the ‘little people’ – the fairies and leprechauns.
Waterford Harvest Festival
Another great foodie event with original twists, the Waterford Harvest Festival kicks off every September in a riot of delicious treats, Irish heritage and culture. Its first day sees the Ballybricken Fair, a traditional 19th century-style re-creation of a typical Irish market. A highlight of the event is the Fulach Fia experience, a historic demonstration of Bronze Age cooking methods by a local Druid chief. Wine and whiskey tastings, a beer tent, street vendors and cooking demos are enlivened by music and other performances.
Wexford Fringe Festival
A multi-disciplinary arts festival, the Wexford Fringe runs from late September to early October and features live gigs, theatre performances, art shows, literary recitals and the best of Irish and international music, both classical and traditional. Over 250 events take place all over the city in diverse venues, and over 16,000 visitors attend every year.