Tomorrow is St Patrick’s Day and for many around the world it probably comes as a good opportunity to unwind after a horrific series of floods, cyclones, earthquakes, tsunamis and nuclear disasters around the world.
While most people associate St Patrick’s Day with all things Irish, green, leprechaun, shamrock or any activity in the pub; it was actually originally a religious holiday.
St Patrick is one of Ireland’s patron saints credited with banishing the snakes, or possibly paganism, from the island. He worked in Ireland as an ordained bishop for 20 years traveling up and down, establishing monasteries, setting up schools and churches.
March 17 is the date of Patrick’s death and what was once a solemn feast day acknowledging his service to the nation, and still is for some, has now become the general celebration of Irish culture we all know.
It must be one of the world’s most celebrated events thanks to the spread and influence of the Irish culture and customs around the globe.
There are plenty of ways you can get involved in St Patrick’s Day tomorrow. You could attend a mass or service, dress in green, jig to some Irish tunes, down some Irish whiskey or beer, go to a parade, tell an Irish joke, wear a shamrock and generally have some fun.
Here are some of the celebrations you can expect to see tomorrow around the world and do consider joining in, the downturn in Ireland’s economic fortunes is affecting many and it’s a good opportunity to celebrate the many great things about the country:
The Irish capital is of course one of the best places to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. In Dublin it’s not just about the 17th, although an image from Wikipedia certainly marks the day (see below).
In Dublin celebrations begin on the 16th and last until the 20th with boat races, funfairs, parades, comedy, concerts, art, film, walking tours and more. It’s a veritable feast of St Patrick and Irish culture that should not be missed.
The United States
New York was actually the first place in the world to hold a St Patrick’s Day. In 1762 Irish soldiers marched through the city and today the event is huge with about 200,000 participants and two million spectators.
Chicago also has strong Irish roots it likes to acknowledge. The windy city has been dying its river green every year since 1962 for the celebrations. The green food colouring only keeps it green for a few hours but it adds to the celebratory spirit.
Apparently First Lady Michelle Obama was inspired by her own city’s commemoration of St Patrick’s Day and initiated a similar event at the White House in 2009 and 2010. The fountains on the north and south lawns were both dyed green. We assume she’ll authorise the same thing again this year.
St Patrick’s Day is widely celebrated across the US and is one of the most popular non-government sanctioned holidays.
Another North American location that goes completely Irish on March 17th is Montreal. Their parade is one of the longest-running in North America and first began in 1924.
This year it will take place on March 20 with floats, bands, cultural groups and even a replica of St Patrick paraded through the streets.
The tiny island of Montserrat is the only other place outside Ireland and a few parts of Canada that observes St Patrick’s Day as a public holiday. It is often called the Emerald Isle of the West because of the influx of Irish colonists in the 1600s and their influence since. A shamrock actually adorns Government House, Irish names abound and there are Irish recipes, musical styles and other influences.
The Irish Association of Korea has celebrated St Patrick’s Day since 2001 and its parades have attracted up to 15,000 spectators in the past. This year festivities will kick off in Insadong in Seoul on March 19. There will be an American army band, dancing, singing, Gaelic football and plenty of liquid refreshment on offer.
You could be mistaken for thinking you were in Ireland with the number of Irish accents that emanate from Australia these days, particularly in places like Sydney where many young Irish people have come to seek new opportunities and escape economic difficulties at home. Australia has always been a welcoming home for Irish people, including my own family, and St Patrick’s Day is celebrated with gusto along George Street in Sydney, in Brisbane’s CBD and downtown Melbourne along with numerous other locations.
St Patrick’s Day is also celebrated in Dubai, Japan, New Zealand and many other places. Find your local Irish pub and join the celebrations. There’s a good website here to help you locate these pubs worldwide – http://www.st-patricks-day.com/irish-pubs-worldwide.html
And finally a very happy St Patrick’s Day to our Irish editor Fergal.