While many of the estimated 36 million people of Irish ancestry in the United States will honor their heritage on St. Patrick’s Day (March 17), Ireland wants to make more than a day of it. So all this year the country will celebrate The Gathering (thegatheringireland.com), a massive collection of festivals, concerts, reunions and special events spread throughout the nation.
The festivities involve nearly every village, town and city in the country, all of which are intent on having a good time. Festivals with music, literary and art themes—as well as more unusual ones like the Puck Fair (August 10–12; puckfair.ie), Ireland’s oldest fair (a goat is crowned king)—populate the calendar. Sporting events include the Dublin Horse Show (August 7–11; dublinhorseshow.com), uniquely Irish Gaelic football and hurling contests.
The Gathering is also an excellent opportunity to get in touch with Irish roots and to possibly reconnect with long-lost relatives. Dublin is a repository of genealogical information, and there are many local societies that will assist with inquiries, including the genealogy butler at Dublin’s Shelbourne hotel. The entire year can truly be a family affair, with happenings scheduled around what are essentially clan reunions. If your name is Kelly, there are about 20 to choose from; if your family isn’t listed, you can create your own.
The backing of a clan isn’t required to enjoy the goings-on. Here are just a few of the events, hotels, sites and services that will help make it a memorable adventure worth recounting. The craic—as this blend of music, fun and fellowship is called—is bound to be unbeatable.