Guest Author - Mary Ellen Sweeney
Due to the ethnic and cultural diversification that has occurred in recent years in Ireland, there is a growing tradition for celebrating everything from Literature to Lore and Organs to Oysters.
For your next trip to Ireland, here are a few of the highlights throughout the year...
Londonderry,in the North of Ireland, boasts the biggest Halloween Festival in the world with around 40,000 visitors to celebrate the Celtic New Year.
The Belfast Festival at Queen's University is Ireland's biggest International Festival and boasts an eclectic mix of music, talks, comedy, exhibitions and films.
Visit the more Traditional Festivals of the Mary from Dungloe, the Galway Races, the Rose of Tralee Festival, Puck Fair in Killorglin, and the Ould Lammas Fair in Ballycastle which are all world famous and offer a great chance to enjoy and experience life among the locals.
Food festivals are quickly becoming more and more popular today and are a huge draw in Ireland with local produce scoring high among international food aficionados. Consider travelling to the now famous oyster festivals in Clarenbridge or Hillsborough, County Down, just outside Belfast.
Are your tastes more in the field of music? Tune in to the Open House Festival with the Waterford International Festival of Light Opera, or the Feile an Phobail in west Belfast. Or grab a seat, fill your hand with a pint of Ireland's best and tap your feet to a great variety of artists at the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival.
Add to this the Wexford Opera Festival with full-scale opera productions, concerts, recitals, talks, cabaret, and fireworks.
For something more historical and indeed a little different, try the Magnus Barelegs Festival in Downpatrick offering a slice of Viking life, or the Eagle Wing Festival in Groomsport, County Down, which celebrates Ireland's cultural links with America.
The literary lovers among us must head off in June to the intriguing Bloomsday Festival, where fans of Joyce's Ulysses dress up in traditional gear and devour old Dublin food like gizzards and kidneys. Alternatively, seek out the delights of the Aspects Literature Festival in Bangor (about 13 miles from Belfast and a beautiful sea-side resort) in September, an annual celebration of Irish literature with lectures, discussion and music.
Finally of course, around March 17th, the country turns forty shades of green for a myriad selection of St Patrick's Day Festivals. All over the country, from the Saint's hallowed burial place in Downpatrick to the more carnival atmosphere of parades and exciting firework displays, people of all races, creeds and colors, celebrate the life of our Patron Saint, even if he has been demoted out of the Saints' list.