The Irish holiday is traditionally celebrated on March 17. In Budapest, however, this year the St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been scheduled for Sunday March 22. This way the event is not only for party people but also for tourists and families with children. Participants can enjoy a rich program with music, food and games.
The Irish: the unfair cliché reduces them to drunkards and grumpy redheads; although in reality they are especially known for their calm nature and warm hearts. The celebration dedicated to honour the Irish bishop and patron saint Patrick is known worldwide and it’s celebrated in numerous parades that turn cities into green oceans.
Since 2011 the parade has been celebrated in Budapest too, organised by Mark Downey, who is Irish himself, and his two helpers Gábor Zimboran and Catherine Gallagher.
Their program attracts more and more visitors each year: this year about 1,500 are expected. The first year they expected about 100 Irish to come but in the end twice as many showed up – many of them not Irish at all.
“More than half of the parade’s visitors are Hungarian,” Downey tells us. “The rest are usually tourists. Not so many Irish people are living here. There are only 300-500 registered.”
The Irish Embassy is among the supporters of the event, giving it a credence that has seen it featured in the evening news on Hungarian television.
The proceedings start at 1.30pm at District V’s Szabadság tér, where there will be a rich Irish program, including a performance by the Irish Dance Academy Budapest, Irish music, face-painting and small presents such as balloons and hats. If you get cold, you can warm up by having an Irish soup in a nearby café, where Irish sandwiches and Guinness will be available as well.
The actual parade will be led by a Scottish band and St. Patrick himself, in the form of a huge mascot. It will start around 3pm, first to the Basilica and then along Andrássy út, where lanes on the Opera House side of the street – from Oktogon towards Deák tér – will be specially closed.
After this, Nagymező utca joins the event. At Instant ruin pub more than 20 bands will perform Irish music between 4pm and 9pm. Guests are welcome to join in and play. “A ‘session’ is something typically Irish,” Downey says. “It either means having a couple of drinks at the bar or spontaneously playing together with other musicians. For that reason, everyone is welcome to accompany the parade and the music show with their own instrument.”
Finally a DJ will keep the dancefloor moving, since experience of the past few years has proved that some guests like to party on until the early hours. Instant will be offering food too.
In previous years the event took place at Akvarium but this is no longer possible after its ownership changed. “The Akvarium was especially suitable with its broad terrace,” Downey recalls. “One year we had a crazy hot day in March and everyone was running around in T-shirts and shorts and we were having beers on the terrace.” It resulted in many passers-by joining the green flock.
There are other options to get in the Irish celebration mood on the 17th and 22nd: District V Irish pubs Jack Doyle’s at Pilvax kőz and recently reopened Becketts at Liszt Ferenc tér will be serving Guinness and Irish beer, and selling St. Patrick’s T-shirts and hats. So in fact will the Scottish pub Caledonia at Mozsár utca, District VI.
For a more formal evening there is the gala dinner in the Hilton on Saturday March 21. The four-course menu with Irish drinks costs HUF 15-20,000, depending on Irish-Hungarian Business Circle membership, and it goes without saying that there will be Irish music and dancing.
St Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival 2015
1.30-3pm: Szabadság tér
3-4pm: Parade to Basilica, Andrássy út
4-9pm: Irish bands at Instant
9pm on: DJ and party
You can find more information about the rest of the programs at www.ihbc.hu