In Ireland, it’s rude to not ask questions. If someone asks you the time and you answer with “5pm”, expect a look of surprise. “5pm. Are you late for something?” would be a better reply. Questions should be answered with questions; it’s the Irish art of conversation and one of the many reasons that Irish people are considered to be among the most friendly in the world.
It’s also one of the reasons that Ireland is an ideal place to spend New Year; surrounded by friendly faces and never without some banter to keep you entertained. We were there for the three-day New Years Festival, a citywide celebration of all the best Dublin has to offer. From spoken word events to guided city tours, there’s a whole programme of events to choose from so you can pick and choose to create a festival that’s unique to you.
These were some of our highlights:
NYF Poetry Slam
Ireland has a long tradition of spoken word performance and the Irish accent lends itself well to poetry readings. I mean, who doesn’t love an Irish accent?! A dedicated Spoken Word Festival forms part of Dublin’s New Year program and features some of Ireland’s best spoken-word stars. We went to the NYF Poetry Slam at the Workman’s Club and were blown away by the quality of the performers. Steve and I are both huge fans of slam poetry and the event inspired us to seek out more events in 2016. If you go to the festival next year, I’d say this is a “must see”.
New Year in Dublin isn’t just about New Years Eve, it’s also New Years Day and there are plenty of events to choose from. A highlight for us was the TED-style Proclamation event at Christ Church Cathedral. The event marks the end of the New Year Festival and the start of First Fortnight, a festival dedicated to challenging mental health prejudice through the creative arts. As such, all the talks were on the theme of mental health, and included some beautiful personal stories and some equally excellent music. It was a wonderfully inspiring way to start 2016.
Bodhrán World Record Attempt
Before attending NYF Dublin, I didn’t know what a bodhrán was, but by the time I left I was a world record holder for taking part in the world’s largest bodhrán session! It turns out a bodhrán is a traditional Irish drum, and on New Year’s Eve we joined around 1,300 other people to smash the current world record. Having never played before, we had a little lesson in the morning from leading bodhrán player, Robbie Walsh from Bodhrán Buzz. He’s a great teacher and the drum is really fun to play, especially as part of a group. We have a couple we’re taking home with us.
Procession of light
On New Year’s Eve before all the parties kick off, there’s a procession of light through the city centre. The procession is headed up by a parade of floats and circus performers, which you can follow with your candle. It’s nice to mix it up a bit by taking part in the procession as well as occasionally stopping to watch it all go by.
At the end of the procession of light, you can watch a 3D light projection on the side of Ivegah House, a grand building on St Stephen’s Green. This year, it was a celebration of Irish heroes and was a beautiful sight to see.
Throughout the whole 3-day festival, there’s a programme of music events to choose from. One highlight is the Ruby Sessions, which sadly we couldn’t get tickets for. This two-night gig is a special edition of the weekly acoustic club of the same name, which is renowned for hosting cosy secret gigs, featuring top artists. Another highlight is the First Contact Music Trail, where 15 venues play host to some of Ireland’s best new performers – and all the gigs are free.
As you walk around the streets of Dublin on any day of the year, you’ll see plenty of street performers, especially along the famous busking spot, Grafton Street (made famous in the film, Once). But during the New Year Festival, those performances are multiplied and you’ll also come across circus performers and other pop up events. One thing we loved was the Team Fuinneamh drum, a giant 14ft-drum that around 50 people can drum together. It was fun making so much noise!
There were free walking tours on 30 and 31, and we chose to go on one with historian, Pat Liddy who gave us an overview of Dublin’s past New Year traditions as we walked around the city’s north side. It turns out New Year as we know it is a relatively new thing to Dublin. The New Year was historically celebrated on 1 November; in fact that’s where Halloween came from – the boundary between the years was seen as a time when spirits were particularly active so people would invoke the protection of the gods to ward of evil spirits. This resulted in all sorts of activities that formed the roots of all the fancy dress and jack-o-lanterns of today. The tour was filled with lots of interesting little facts like this and I’d recommend Pat Liddy for a good historical insight to Dublin.
New Year’s Eve festivities
On New Year’s Eve itself, there are plenty of options to choose from. Our friends and fellow bloggers, Kash and Sofia, went to the Countdown Concert, which was headlined by Fat Boy Slim, and we picked the Street Fest, an outdoor concert on St.Stephen’s Green featuring three of Ireland’s favourite bands, Le Galaxie, All Tvvins and Wyvern Lingo. We also spent some time just wandering the streets and taking in the atmosphere. We found that, unlike in England, most pubs weren’t charging an entrance fee so it was easy to dip in and out of places. Most venues were packed, but we did find a fantastic cocktail bar called Peruke & Periwig, which was playing great music and where we even managed to get a seat. Depending on whether you fancy watching live music, dancing in the streets, going out for a great meal, or enjoying some excellent cocktails in a beautiful setting, we found that there was something to suit everyone in Dublin on New Year. Just bear in mind that if you go to the Countdown Concert or the Street Fest, there is no re-admission, so plan your evening accordingly.
Finally, if you’re in Dublin for the New Year Fesival, don’t forget to explore the city itself. Lots of places – from breweries to galleries to museums – have special New Year discounts as part of the Dublin Discovery Trail. We learned to pull a pint at the Guinness Storehouse and learned all about the history of whiskey at the Irish Whiskey Museum. Unfortunately The Old Library, which holds the Book of Kells was closed, but that’s just a reason to go back.
We also loved simply walking around all the streets, especially the charming Temple Bar and Georgian Dublin – our Instagram feed is filled with all the photos.
One thing to bear in mind if you’re travelling to Dublin for New Year is that the weather is unpredictable and variable (the photos above were taken on the same day). Steve and I are from England so we’re used it and were happy to wrap up warm and withstand a little drizzle. If you’re not good with cold weather, then make sure you go there with open eyes. We were lucky and it only rained heavily on New Year’s Day, which meant we got to enjoy all the outdoor events on the 30 and 31 December. That said, there are plenty of indoor events and Dublin does cosy very well so wet weather wouldn’t ruin the festival. Just don’t go there expecting constant clear skies!
As is obvious, we highly recommend spending New Year in Dublin! Let us know if you have any questions. And if you’re planning trip, don’t forget to check out our travel planning pages.
Here are some more photos to convince you 🙂