In the depths of our gloomy winter, there’s a promise of fun and frolics in the air. 17 March is Saint Patrick’s Day and a time to paint the town green.
If you’re not in Ireland for the day, it’s not a problem, St Patrick’s Day is celebrated brilliantly across the world. Some of the biggest St Patrick’s Day events include parades and festivals in places as far and wide as New York, Sydney, Chicago, London, Montreal and Montserrat…the list goes on. Let’s take a look:
First and foremost on the list is Dublin which hosts one of the biggest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Ireland. The festivities include five days filled with boat races, the Irish Beer & Whiskey Festival, street performances, music and a spectacular St Patrick’s Day parade. Running from 13 to 17 March, the parade attracts about half a million people filling the streets from Parnell Square to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
As part of “greening the city,” major landmarks like the Natural History Museum and St. Patrick’s Cathedral are given a magnificent green glow in honour of the festivities.
St Patrick’s Day is well celebrated across the UK with Nottingham, Birmingham, Newcastle, Halifax, Manchester and London all hosting large-scale parades and other events.
Nottingham’s weekend of celebrations includes children’s workshops, an arts festival and performances by well-known Irish musicians. There’s also a huge parade in Birmingham, attended by many thousands of people, while in Liverpool, Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations go on for three days!
London takes the prize with a whole week of celebrations which include a parade with floats and marching bands following the 1.5-mile route from Green Park to Trafalgar Square. The festival gives you the chance to experience many aspects of Irish culture, including crafts, dance, music, food and of course the taste of rich, frothy Guinness.
Chicago goes the extra mile when it comes to St. Patrick’s Day by dying the Chicago River green. This tradition goes back to 1961 when the chairman of the annual parade saw green dye in the river which was at the time used to pinpoint a sewage problem in the city. He decided to use it for the up-coming St. Patrick’s Day holiday. Over 400,000 people gather along the Chicago River to watch 20 kilos of environmentally-safe vegetable dye turn the murky river into a bright shade of green. After the dyeing ceremony, more spectators gather ready for the 3 hour parade at noon. Dancers and bands wind their way up Columbus Drive and through Grant Park.
New York, USA
New York City hosts the world’s largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration with more than two million people gathering for the city’s grand parade on 17 March. The march starts at 11am and goes up Fifth Avenue from 44th Street, ending at 79th, with a stop at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on the way. You will see bands, bagpipes, dancers and around 200,000 people partying to their hearts’ content.
Like Ireland, Montserrat is often named “the Emerald Isle.” This beautiful island in the British West Indies is the only place outside Ireland where St. Patrick’s Day is awarded a public holiday. And they really do celebrate: the 10-day festival includes a St. Patrick’s Day dinner, a kite festival, performances by the Irish community and cabaret. Thrown into the mix on the same day as St Patrick’s Day, Monserrat marks its first slave rebellion, leading to even more African and Caribbean festivities so there’s no shortage of action.
The Sydney Opera House turns bright green for St. Patrick’s Day as does the rest of the city. With a huge 200-year old themed parade taking place on the Sunday before St. Patrick’s Day, there’s plenty of entertainment in the streets of Sydney before and after the big day. Sydney’s parade is one of the largest in the world, and the only one organised by the Irish Community and the Australian Government.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Not only does Buenos Aires host the biggest St. Patrick’s Day celebration in South America, it is home to the fifth largest Irish community in the world. It’s unsurprising therefore that St. Patrick’s Day brings celebrations to town. Its street festival takes up ten blocks along Reconquista Street which comes alive with a frenzy of music and dancing. The parade ends at the Plaza San Martín and features Celtic music as well as an amusing leprechaun costume contest.
Dating back to just 1995, this St. Patrick’s Day tradition is relatively recent in Munich but it’s by no means a quiet affair with some 15,000 participants shutting down Leopold Strasse and filling it with colourful parades and celebrations of all things Irish. Look forward to flags, sports clubs, folk groups, leprechauns, Guinness and the guest of honour: Holy St. Patrick. The procession runs from the famous “Münchener Freiheit” to Odeonplatz.
Later on, the after party pulsates with great Irish music, dance and laughter from an assortment of Irish performers who entertain throughout the day on two stages. Restaurants and pubs offer their own specialties in terms of food and beer so get into the mood and eat, drink and be merry!