You can win a lot of money from people by challenging them to name the seven Celtic nations.
Most people think they’re Ireland, Northern Ireland, Notre Dame football, the Larry Bird Fan Club, the Pogues, the characters in Brave who weren’t turned into bears, and whoever’s sitting at the bar at Pud’s Irish Pub in Royalton, Wis.
Actually, they’re Scotland, the Isle of Man, Brittany, Cornwall, Wales, and Galicia.
(Yes, Virginia, there is a Galicia. It’s in Spain. The Celtic Republic of Spain. And you thought all Ireland and Spain had in common was striking air-traffic controllers.)
We mention this because it’s almost St. Patrick’s Day, the day when everyone is Irish-slash-Celtic, and the one place in the world where St. Patrick’s Day is not a big deal is Ireland, where everyone really is Irish. They’re not quite sure what the fuss is about, but here, have a Guinness.
So given that, where do you want to be spending St. Patrick’s Day if you’re the type who spends St. Patrick’s Day somewhere? Of course we have some recommendations, starting with the obvious.
New York: There are more Irish in New York than there are in Ireland. Actually, that’s a lie. But there are more Irish per square inch in New York than in Ireland, and they love to march, sing, and hold up traffic, which is why so many of them became policemen. They put on a great parade, though. In fact, New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parades are so long that you could swear the marching-and-chowder societies are finishing up, running around to the back and taking a second lap. The parade’s official website says they’ve been marching for 250 years, so make that three laps. Beyond the parade, St. Patrick’s Day in New York is a slapdash series of long, impromptu bar crawls, which is why there’s a year-round organization devoted entirely to the cause of not drinking to excess on St. Patrick’s Day in New York. Let’s see Christmas pull that off!
Chicago: True to its hog-butcher-for-the-world roots, Chicago celebrates St. Paddy’s by degrading the environment, dying the Chicago River green, a welcome change from its normal shade of heavy-metal effluent. There’s a parade on the South Side (if you didn’t know the South Side Irish song before the parade, you will after), and the White Sox wear kelly-green uniforms in honor of the day. Of course, the Sox are no fools (even if they can’t spell “socks”); they’re at Spring Training in Arizona, as far from Chicago’s bitter winds as they can get.
New Orleans: New Orleansians are always looking for a reason to stomp around and cause traffic jams, and St. Patrick’s Day gives them a surprisingly strong rationale to do so. There’s a whole lot of Irish in the New Orleans gumbo, and the Crescent City celebrates with not one St. Patrick’s Day parade but several. Like all good New Orleans parades, they have brass bands, floats, and things being thrown from floats. The big difference: On St. Patrick’s Day, float rider-throwers eschew beads and Moon-Pies in favor of – and we are not making this up – cabbages, carrots, onions, potatoes, and the other makings of Irish stew (but not a big ol’ side of beef, darn the luck). So grab a cabbage off the street and sing another chorus of “When The Saints Go Marching In”; it’s St. Patrick’s Day!
Charleston, S.C.: Charleston has a parade and some history and what is touted to be “the best St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the Lowcountry” (beating out what other St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the Lowcountry, we wonder?), but the main reason to spend St. Patrick’s Day is Charleston is that the food is so doggone good. Of course, that’s the way it is in Charleston every other day of the year, but if you’re going to spend St. Patrick’s Day somewhere and you don’t want to be forced to wolf down Dinty Moore and dry soda bread, this is where you want to be.
Boston: The Boston Irish have never been as effusive as the New York Irish, except possibly when it comes to gangland executions. Maybe because of that, the place you want to be in the Boston area on St. Patrick’s Day is not actually in Boston but Holyoke, home of the world’s second-largest St. Patrick’s Day parade. In addition to the parade itself, which goes on for hours and features bands, Mummers, celebrities, and more, there are balls and pageants; a 10K road race that’s a popular warmup for the Boston Marathon; and the presentation of the annual John F. Kennedy Award to a prominent Irish-American. Unlike some other St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, which are about people pretending to be Irish, the Holyoke celebration is about being Irish. Big difference.
Las Vegas: Las Vegas is full of displaced people who are more than willing to admit they’re Irish, even if they’re not. So if you’re going to be in Las Vegas and it’s St. Patrick’s Day, why not celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Las Vegas? There’s a St. Patrick’s Day parade here – Nevada’s biggest parade, by some estimates – a “Men In Kilts” contest at the Commonwealth downtown, and miscellaneous revelry to be had at several Irish pubs along the Strip (including Nine Fine Irishmen and the Public House). They’re not real Irish pubs, obviously, and they’re not full of real Irishmen, but that’s okay. This is Las Vegas, after all. And it is St. Patrick’s Day.
Editor’s Note: Not being Irish on St. Patrick’s Day? Ooooh, that might not be a #RiskWorthTaking. For all the #RisksWorthTaking in travel, there’s Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection. Get it here.