date published: March 10, 2008

It’s easy (and fun) bein’ green in Beantown this March
by Josh B. Wardrop

The first St. Patrick’s Day celebration in America occurred in Boston in 1737, which means more green beer has been consumed here than anywhere in the nation. Since then, the party has only grown, with Celtic fever seizing the city whenever mid-March rolls around. But you don’t need the luck of the Irish to have fun this St. Paddy’s Day—here’s a few cool ways to spend the week celebrating Ireland’s patron saint.

March of the Irish
The traditionally Irish neighborhood of South Boston is the epicenter of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Boston, most notably demonstrated by the famous South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Every year, 600,000 Bostonians and visitors pack the streets of “Southie” to experience this magical procession featuring marching and bagpipe bands from America and the Emerald Isle, exciting floats and other Gaelic-inspired treats. Founded in 1901 to celebrate the Hub’s Irish heritage, the South Boston parade is a living part of Boston’s history and a tradition handed down through the generations. The 107th annual parade kicks off at 1 p.m. on Sunday, March 16, from the Broadway MBTA station on the Redline. For a complete list of parades around the state, visit Refer to special events listing.

Walking The Green Miles
In Boston, everyone with even the slightest Celtic connections claims to be Irish come March 17. But how much do they actually know about Boston’s rich Irish history? Boston’s Irish Heritage Trail, a three-mile self-guided walking tour through downtown Boston, the North End, Beacon Hill and Back Bay showcases the Hub’s Gaelic past. The tour details over 300 years of history, highlighting the politicians, artists and war heroes who personify the rebellious and triumphant nature of the Boston Irish. View a garden dedicated to the city’s most famous Irish-American matriarch, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy; a flag waved by the entirely Irish 9th Regiment of Infantry during the Civil War; and a memorial remembering the tragic Great Famine that claimed 1 million lives and forced 2 million victims to flee Ireland. Maps of the Trail are available at the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Boston Common Visitor Center and the Prudential Center Visitor Information Center. Refer to sightseeing listing.

The Sweet Science
Spend enough St. Patrick’s Days drinking to your friends’ and countrymen’s health in one of Boston’s many fine Irish pubs (see sidebar) and you might see one or two overly spirited types getting a bit rowdy and rambunctious with each other. This year, however, there’s one spot in Boston where you can absolutely bank on punches being thrown—the Orpheum Theatre, which for the first time in its more than 150-year history is hosting an evening of exhibition boxing on March 15. The Celtic Invasion features top Irish fighters like Jonathan “Thunderbolt” O’Brien and Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan hopping the pond to take on American contenders in a passionate program of pugilistic prowess. Refer to sports listing.

Beyond Bangers & Mash
Though corned beef and cabbage is a staple dish in Boston’s Irish pubs around St. Patrick’s Day, Irish cuisine goes far beyond this humble meal. To prove this, the Boston Irish Tourism Association is sponsoring the third annual Gaelic Gourmet Gala on March 14 from 7–10 p.m. at the Hotel Commonwealth in Kenmore Square. Some of Ireland’s top chefs, including Padraic Hayden, Paul McKnight and Tony O’Neill, match their skills with local celebrity chefs like Marc Orfaly, Michael Schlow and Angela and Seth Raynor to serve up new and innovative takes on Irish fare. The $100 per person ticket allows patrons to eat, drink and be merry, indulging in top-notch cuisine and a vast selection of wine, beer and cocktails. Refer to special events listing.

Raise a Glass to Ireland
Looking to toast Ireland’s patron saint this holiday without spending a pot o’ gold? Avoid notoriously expensive (and sometimes unfriendly) South Boston pubs and enjoy a pint of Guinness or get frisky with Irish whiskey at these popular watering holes.

THE BLACK ROSE, 160 State St., 617-742-2286. This Faneuil Hall landmark is a noted hotspot on St. Patrick’s Day, with live music, delicious Irish grub and a raucous crowd celebrating old Eire.

THE BURREN, 247 Elm St., Somerville, 617-776-6896. This family-friendly pub offers Irish set dancing classes every Monday and serves patrons food and drink to live Celtic music nightly in an Old World atmosphere.

DOYLE’S, 3484 Washington St., Jamaica Plain, 617-524-2345. Since its inception in 1882, Doyle’s has been a popular spot for mayors, senators and governors, and hosts an annual St. Patrick’s Day bagpipe band battle.

Kennedy’s Midtown, 42 Province St., 617-426-3333 (pictured above). One part classic steakhouse, one part lively Irish pub, Kennedy’s offers delicious entrees and appetizers and live musical entertainment every Thu–Sat.

PLOUGH AND STARS, 912 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-576-0032. This pub serves hardy drafts of Guinness and a multi-ethnic menu, and even televises European football matches.

Boston Green on the Big Screen
Let’s face it: if you’ve seen any of the movies about the Boston Irish-American experience that have come out in the last decade (Southie, Monument Ave., The Departed), you might be afraid that anyone you meet in this town with a scally cap or a mild brogue intends to pistol-whip you and throw you in Boston Harbor. That’s why the theatrical release of writer/director Dave McLaughlin’s charming feature film On Broadway is such a refreshing change of pace. The warm-hearted drama about a young man trying to mend his relationship with a distant father by writing a play about his family and staging it in a neighborhood pub features a cast of well-known names with genuine Massachusetts bonafides—including Joe McIntyre (“Boston Public,” pop group New Kids on the Block), Eliza Dushku (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Bring it On), Amy Poehler (“Saturday Night Live”) and Will Arnett (“Arrested Development”). Having already thrived on the film festival circuit (including winning Best Feature Film at the Galway Film Fleadh in Ireland), On Broadway opens March 14 at the Somerville Theatre (55 Davis Square, Somerville, 617-625-5700) and West Newton Cinema (1296 Washington St., 617-964-6060).

As is usually the case around St. Patrick’s Day, lovers of Irish music in all its forms—from bagpipe bands marching in parades, to local musicians engaging in Celtic jam sessions at local pubs to major names in Irish popular music—are spoiled for choice in the City of Boston.

If it’s St. Paddy’s Day in Boston, one group that’s certain to be ripping it up onstage is hometown Irish/punk superstars the Dropkick Murphys. In past years, the Dropkicks commandeered the late Lansdowne Street club Avalon for a long run of shows, but with Avalon’s closure in 2007, the band is mixing up their residency a bit, playing both in and outside of Boston. On March 15, the unofficial house band of the Boston Red Sox travels north to Lowell for shows at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium and the Tsongas Arena before bringing it back inside city limits for two shows of raucous, high-energy song at the Paradise Rock Club on March 16 & 17. Refer to live music listing.

Lovers of Celtic-influenced rock can rejoice in a visit to Boston by folk-punk legends The Pogues. Fronted by their legendarily colorful and dissolute lead singer Shane McGowan, the venerable veterans perform two shows at the Orpheum on March 19 & 20 (refer to live music listing). Meanwhile, Belfast’s favorite musical son, temperamental genius and all-around Celtic curmudgeon Van Morrison, hits his old Hub stomping grounds (back in the late 1960s, Morrison lived across the river in Cambridge for a time) for a March 14 concert at the Wang Theatre (refer to live music listing).

For those looking for something more old school, the Somerville Theatre hosts A St. Patrick’s Day Sojourn featuring Brian O’Donovan on March 17. The show celebrates Irish music and dance with performances by singers Karan Casey and John Spillane, music from neo-traditional group Buille and high-stepping dance by Kieran Jordan and Dancers. Refer to live music listing.

Finally, what would March be without a visit from Ireland’s kings of traditional Celtic song, The Chieftains? The band brings its authentic, time-honored tunes to Symphony Hall on March 14. Refer to live music listing.

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