Washington Ways to Celebrate an Irish Holiday

10 Mar
March 10, 2011

Today marks one week until one of America’s most celebrated holidays, a day when just about everyone claims to have a little Irish in them — St Patrick’s Day, of course! And while the best way to celebrate would be to hop on a plane to Dublin, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the holiday locally.  St. Patricks’s Day might be known best for boisterous revelry, but it can still be fun for everyone, young or old.

St. Patrick’s Day, celebrated March 17th every year, honors the memory of St. Patrick, who according to legend brought Christianity to Ireland. He passed away on March 17th, over 1,500 years ago, and people have been celebrating on that day ever since.

One of the most common family-friendly ways communities celebrate St. Patrick’s Day is by hosting a parade, and there are plenty all over the area to kick off the festivities.

In Maryland, for starters, you can attend the Gaithersburg St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  This year it will be hosted by two Irish artists: Alice McDermott, an author who won the 1998 National Book Award for Charming Billy and Danny Costello, a musician. The parade will be held at the Washingtonian Center in Gaithersburg, from 10 a.m. until noon on Saturday, March 12th .

On the other side of the Potomac River, in Manassas, Virginia, there is the Manassas St. Patrick’s Day Parade, also on Saturday. It starts at 11 a.m., at the intersection of Quarry Road and Prescott Avenue and winds south through the town. The parade prominently features bagpipe bands, an homage to Irish culture. Among the many different bagpipers playing at the Manassas parade are the Northern Virginia Firefighters Emerald Society Pipe Band and the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Coalition Pipes and Drums.

If music is your idea of a good time, but bagpipes aren’t to your liking, there is always Shamrockfest. Held annually on the grounds around RFK Stadium in D.C., Shamrockfest is one of the area’s biggest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Going on all day this Saturday, Shamrockfest is an eclectic mix of famous artists, from the popular Irish punk rock band Dropkick Murphy’s to Jersey Shore’s infamous record spinner, DJ Pauly D. Tickets start at just $24.95 (plus a five dollar fee) for nearly nine hours of music featuring over 50 acts.

Of course, all these events occur before the holiday. So if you’d like to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on the actual day, Thursday the 17th, the best way to do so is to head to any of the area’s numerous Irish bars.

In Fairfax City, Virginia, one of the more popular pubs is Auld Shebeen, on Chain Bridge Road, right in the middle of town. All day and night the bar will have authentic Irish dancing and music. If you’d like to join in the festivities, be sure to get there early, the bar gets crowded quickly.

Closer to the city, but somewhat off the beaten path, is the small and charming Kitty O’Shea’s in Arlington. While the area has plenty of Irish bars, like RiRa and the Four Courts, Kitty O’ Shea’s remains under the radar. Located on Wilson Boulevard, between the Clarendon and Courthouse Metro stations, Kitty O’Shea’s is the perfect place to tip back a pint of Guinness and pretend for the evening that you are just a little bit Irish.

After all, everyone is on St. Patrick’s Day.

-David

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