March 17th is the day that the Irish celebrate their Saint’s Day. It’s a bacchanal that envelops the whole country and now lasts for about a week. Everything Irish is celebrated with parades, concerts, fireworks, cultural spectaculars and of course the Craic. The St Patrick’s Day Parade has also become a traditional feature of American cities with a large Irish population but St Patrick’s Day in the Caribbean has also become a notable feature on some islands and it’s not all just to squeeze more out of the tourist dollar.
Montserrat must seem to be the one of the most unlikely places to find a week long St Patrick’s Day Festival. Ireland is known the world over as The Emerald Isle and Montserrat shares the same epithet so maybe it’s not as incongruous as it first seems. Montserrat is the only country in the world other than Ireland that has St. Patrick’s Day as a public holiday and it references the settlement on the island of 17th Century Irish Catholics fleeing religious persecution. The festivities really sum up what St. Patrick’s Day in the Caribbean should be: A blend of Irish culture and traditional island entertainment with a good dose of African heritage.
The festival is filled with parades of locals and Irish holidaymakers (and just about anybody else looking for a good time!) wearing traditional Caribbean dress with massive hints of green or decorated with shamrocks dancing along to calypso, soca and steep pan music. There’s usually an event to commemorate the attempted slave revolt in 1768 and there are special church services and other themed events, such as masquerade dancing, all over the island. Guinness is on tap in the bars or you can try a pint of green Heineken instead to wash down copious amounts of the national dish – Goat Water – which has been given an Irish stew influence.
St. Croix, US Virgin Islands
There has been an annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Christiansted since 1969 and it has come a long way since a group of local businessmen fixed an old piano to a flatbed truck and toured the streets playing and singing Irish songs. It is now a full blown street party with green clad marchers, floats galore and of course it’s a real music fest. Since 2007 each parade has a theme and like any good parade there are prizes on offer for the best floats and costumes.
Where it’s entirely logical for another place to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the Caribbean is the parish of St. Patrick’s on Grenada. Focussed on the little fishing village of Sauteurs, where the parish church is dedicated to St, Patrick, there’s a week long extravaganza of cultural traditions, local art and craft exhibitions and drinks and agricultural product fairs. There are also religious services dedicated to their patron saint.
For the last few years there has been a Parada de San Patricion and an all day festival to honor Ireland’s patron saint in the lovely coastal town of Luquillo.
Other ways and places to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the Caribbean
March is one of the peak months for tourism in the Caribbean so many places will roll out the green carpet to attract visitors to their particular village or special activity and there’s always a special welcome in Irish bars dotted around the islands. Here’s a few examples of past year’s events but you’ll need to check local listings for 2011.
For a beachfront celebration of St. Patrick’s Day there’s the weekend festivities run by the Martineau Bay Resort & Spa with green cocktails and local stand ins for Irish beer and cuisine.
Turks and Caicos
Not for the faint-hearted or alcohol shy, there’s a St. Patrick’s Day pub crawl around Providenciales.
Irish Pubs and Bars
San Juan, Puerto Rico – Shannon’s Irish Pub
Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico – Logan’s Irish Pub
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands- Fidel Murphy’s Irish Pub and Restaurant
Freeport, Bahamas – Shenanigans Irish Pub and European Eatery
Rodney Bay, St. Lucia – Shamrock’s Pub
Hamilton, Bermuda – Flanagan’s Irish Pub, Restaurant and Sports Bar.
Most of the Caribbean cruise liners under sail on St. Patrick’s Day will feature special themed events on board. Ship bound festivities might be more limited in 2011 as St Patrick’s Day falls on a Saturday which is a typical embarkation day for many cruise line operators. Check tour itineraries for details.
However you choose to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the Caribbean, you need only one word Sláinte!
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