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St. Patrick’s Day began sometime in the 1700s as a holy day to honor Ireland’s patron saint. Over time, St. Patrick’s Day evolved from a strictly holy occasion to one that also honors Irish culture and tradition, until it became the daylong, and more, festival that it is today.

On this one day, everyone seem to discover some Irish roots, abandon the diet and no-alcohol strictures of Lent, and join in the festivities. Green ties, ribbons, shirts, pants, hats, even socks, emerge from drawers and closets for the traditional “wearing of the green.” Shamrocks seem to be everywhere. (According to legend, St. Patrick used the three-leaf shamrock — which is green — to explain the Holy Trinity as he worked to convert the pantheistic Irish to Christianity.)

St. Patrick’s Day has grown into such a big occasion that some festivities spill into the preceding week. Pre-St. Patrick's Day events were kicked off last Sunday by the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade down Washington's Constitution Avenue, but those who love a parade can still celebrate. In Maryland, Gaithersburg’s 12th annual St. Patrick’s Day parade takes place Sunday beginning at 10 a.m. at the Washington Center shopping strip.

Some of the Irish pubs and restaurants in the greater Washington area also got a head start on the music and festivities, but there’s plenty more to come, and Fairfax County is well represented.

Most of the areas’s Irish restaurants/bars/pubs usually serve some traditional Irish dishes, which are hearty and simple — meat- and fish-based with lots of potatoes. Corned beef and cabbage, shepherd’s pie, Irish stew and Irish soda bread are probably the most familiar dishes.

Below are some local gathering places where you can join the St. Patrick’s Day festivities, and enjoy a traditional Irish meal, as well. Note, though, that if you want to eat, you may need reservations. For a glass of Harp or Guinness, an Irish whiskey or Irish coffee, you can always find room at the bar.

The Auld Shebeen, 3971 Chain Bridge Road, Fairfax, 703-293-9600. The Auld Shebeen always has traditional Irish pub favorites — fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, corned beef and cabbage, Guinness beef stew, Irish sausage and mash, and Irish breakfast with black pudding, Irish bacon and all the trimmings — on the menu. For St. Patrick’s Day, there’s plenty of entertainment in store, including the Flying Cows of Ventry, Third Herd Boys, as well as traditional Irish dancing (between 3 and 4 p.m) and music. A live telecast of Ireland vs. England in the Six Nation Rugby Championship begins at 1. Festivities start at 10 a.m. and continue until 2 a.m.

Ireland’s Four Provinces, 105 West Broad St., Falls Church, 703-534-8999. To accommodate the expected crowds, Ireland's Four Provinces has a 51-foot outdoor (rain or shine) bar. Doors open at 8 a.m., first come, first served, for a Kegs and Eggs breakfast with a choice of either traditional Irish or American breakfast. The Dirty Pines will play all day, but reservations are required for the set 3-course menu with potato leek soup or emerald salad, Salmon Kiilkenny topped with roasted pepper cream sauce or Irish Chicken Tellamore, and homemade Irish cream mousse served in a chocolate tulip cup with fresh strawberries marinated in Irish Mist for dessert.

The Old Brogue Irish Pub, 760 Walker Road, Great Falls, 703-759-3309. Irish breakfast will be served, and the first pint will be poured, starting at 7:30 a.m. in The Snuggery. Snuggery lunch and dinner, with live music provided all day by Pennywhistle from Ireland’s County Donegal, begins at 11, reservations required. The menu features a number of traditional dishes, including Cottage Pie, Irish bangers, and fish and chips. The Old Brogue’s “St. Patrick’s Day Pub Bash” begins at 10 with traditional Irish beer at all three bars, with Ted Garber providing live music, first come, first serve with no reservations.

O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub, 754 Elden Street, Herndon, 703-464-0522. O’Sullivan’s list of Irish favorites includes beef and Guinness stew, a Guinness burger, Chicken Tullamore, Salmon Killybegs, corned beef and cabbage, bangers and mash, and Irish fry (Irish sausage, Irish bacon, black and white pudding, Irish baked beans, grilled tomato, mushrooms and two eggs). O’Sullivan’s opens at 8 a.m. with kegs and eggs, and will have live music all day. Irish dancers and the live telecast of the Ireland vs. England rugby game also are on the schedule.

Kate’s Irish Pub, 6131 Backlick Road, Springfield, 703-866-0860. Kate’s also has scheduled live music all day. The pub menu features some Irish dishes along with more conventional pub fare. The Irish offerings include an Irish Reuben and hot corned beef sandwiches, beef and Guinness pie, Irish stew, and grilled Irish whiskey strip steak.

McKeever’s Pub, 6625 Old Dominion Drive, McLean, 703-790-9453.This McLean favorite, best known for its hamburgers and beer, is adding some traditional Irish dishes in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. These include the staples: shepherd’s pie, corned beef and cabbage, and Irish stew. Irish music will play throughout the day and evening.