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5 Sites for Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day

March 13, 2009
by Isabel Cowles
St. Patrick’s Day is a lively holiday, steeped in traditions that go way beyond green beer and leprechauns. The following five sites offer resources to teach you about the holiday and how to embrace it through recipes, decorations, parades and even traveling to Ireland.

St. Patrick’s Day History

For many people, St. Patrick’s Day marks the one day out a year when bars all over the country can serve green beer without incurring a visit from the Department of Health. However, this day of brightly colored brew and enthusiastic imbibing is really a Catholic holiday that commemorates Ireland’s patron saint, St. Patrick, who reportedly died on March 17. Ireland’s national holiday falls during Lent, when Catholics are required to abstain from meat and alcohol.

Historically, the Irish church made an exception on the day, allowing citizens to eat, drink and be merry—a fact that may contribute to the longstanding tradition of alcoholic revelry associated with the holiday, not to mention the consumption of corned beef and cabbage. But the day represents more than eating and drinking with reckless abandon. The History Channel offers several short videos about the history of St. Patrick, the traditions of his feast day and Irish culture in general.

Recipes, Decorations and Party Planning for St. Patrick’s Day

While the rowdy bar scene does tend to embody the holiday for many people, there are tamer ways to enjoy the occassion. If you're aiming for a tasteful party at home, visit the expert in highly civilized celebration: Martha Stewart. Make your party especially festive with her St. Patrick’s Day recipes and craft ideas. Food suggestions mix classic Irish dishes with modern inspiration, including staples like Irish stew and clever treats like clover cookies. Then show your Irish with a lovely handmade shamrock boutonniere.

Even if everyone else can take a break from Lent to drink, chances are you'd like your kids to stay sober. But you can get your young ones and your home in the St. Patrick’s Day spirit by following Kaboose’s instructions for easy-to-make crafts, decorations and party games. Make a shamrock-decorated T-shirt, a leprechaun hat to hold chips or a St. Patrick’s Day bingo game. The site also offers party ideas and several family-friendly recipes, such as Irish soda bread, lime punch and corned beef pizza.

Irish Parades and Celebrations

Of course, one major way to celebrate the day is to attend a St. Patrick’s Day parade. Young and old alike can take pleasure in the marching, music and Irish pride. (Because on St. Patrick's Day, everyone is Irish.)  Find a parade near you with this St. Patrick’s Day parade directory, which lists St. Patrick’s Day events in the U.S., Canada, Ireland and other locations around the world.

Some say there’s no better place to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day than in the saint’s adoptive home country, Ireland. If you're set on heading to the source, you can’t miss the official St. Patrick’s Day festival in Dublin. The celebration lasts a full six days and promises to bring “music and mirth to the streets and the Country.” In addition to the parade, it includes concerts, theater, walking tours and many cultural events.

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