WASHINGTON, DC — The speeches and placards at the March for Life have a decidedly somber tone, given that the goal is to put a stop to abortion.

But when the protests are through, for some it’s time to celebrate life and the relationships they have formed through years of marches.

“It’s like Saint Patrick’s Day in here,” said Padraic Cassidy, a bartender at the Dubliner, a Washington, DC, pub just steps from the city’s iconic Union Station.

Although the actual Irish holiday is still a couple of months away, the Dubliner was filled to capacity — and then some — with a different sort of reveler: anti-abortion protesters who travel to the nation’s capital each Jan. 22 to commemorate the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision to legalize abortion.

“We should take abortion seriously, but celebrating the life that we have, the relationships that we have, that’s our mission in trying to transform this culture,” said Jessie Tappel, 28, of Washington, DC, while holding a friend’s infant inside the Dubliner. “To celebrate life means to celebrate joy, and that’s part of the reason we all come together.”

The pub, filled with Irish music and loud chatter, is packed with college students wearing shirts and stickers with pro-life messages, priests in Roman collars, and even a bishop.

“It’s the place to come after the march because so many of the people at the march know that people congregate here,” said Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska. He’s been coming to the Dubliner after the march for 29 years.

“It’s a very Catholic thing to do. We’re all about life and we’re all about conviviality. Getting together in fellowship, having a beer, and celebrating the gift of life is what happens here,” he said.

Gavin Coleman, whose family has owned the restaurant since 1974, said the afternoon and evening following the March for Life easily ranks among the pub’s busiest days each year.

On a normal afternoon, he said, a bartender and two servers suffice. But today, there were five bartenders and six servers on hand. They work nonstop, weaving their way through the thick crowds, beginning when the march ends in the early afternoon through 9 p.m. when things start to wind down.

Protesters said gathering at the Dubliner has become a tradition as important, for some, as the march itself.

Lamar Edwards, 26, of Philadelphia, said he comes to the Dubliner after the march each year “because it’s sort of a reunion” with college friends and former coworkers.

“In my mind, the march is evolving more and more into a celebration of life, and we’re continuing this celebration here,” he said.

Being around other people who share a passion for the same cause is what brought Cristina Gonzales, an employee at Holy Cross College in South Bend, Indiana, to the Dubliner.

“It’s so great to see everyone come together and support a cause that’s so special to each our hearts,” she said. “This is where a lot of us catch up. It’s a great time to get some drinks and catch up.”

Andrew Heekin, 23, from Atlanta, said his priest tipped him off to the Dubliner.

“I love it. This solidifies the community. We’re here marching, but we’re also here to be with each other in fellowship. We enjoy each other’s company in the pub,” he said.

Despite the longer-than-normal waits for tables and difficulty moving around the bar, Cassidy, the bartender, said, “it’s a good day to work. People are in a good mood after the march.”

Most people order beer, he said: “a lot of Guinness.”

In the past, marchers would bring in the various placards identifying them with the march. But as the after-party grew, that became a hazard. Signs are no longer allowed, and protesters are asked to occupy tables for no more than 45 minutes. But the atmosphere inside remains celebratory, if a bit chaotic.

Coleman, the owner, said the pub’s proximity to Union Station and the US Capitol means that any time there’s a large rally on the mall, the pub will be busy, so they’re used to crowds. Liberals and conservatives both come through, he added. In fact, the left-leaning MSNBC broadcast live from the Dubliner during the second inauguration of President Barack Obama.

On days like this, even the well-connected Catholics have trouble getting a table.

Standing outside on the empty patio on a brisk January evening, Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, said he and six of his children had no luck.

“I come here pretty regularly, even without the march. I love that we have all these Catholics here having a drink, but on the other hand, I’d like to be able to get a drink,” he said, laughing. “It’s so packed right now.”