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St. Patrick's Day Around the World

Take a look at how the world observes one of the most celebrated international holidays on the planet - the glorious St. Patrick's Day. From Seoul to New Zealand and Birmingham to Grenada, the 'wearin' o' the green' is now a world-wide event embraced by dozens of nationalities. Read on and have a brief idea about St. Patrick's Day celebrations around the world. If you like our article, click here to refer this page to your friends and share with them the spirit of this day. After all, everybody is Irish on St. Patrick's Day!

Patrick's Day Around The World

In Ireland

St. Patrick's Day is celebrated in towns and cities right across the globe, but it's probably fair to say that nowhere can the festivities match the excitement and atmosphere of St. Patrick's Day in Ireland.

IrelandIn Ireland, St. Patrick's Day is more of a religious holiday similar to Christmas and Easter. Many Irish people start the day by going to mass and offering prayers for the Saint and missionaries all over the world. After that people flock to their local village or town to see the annual Saint Patrick's Day parade – and this is where the real celebrations begin! With grand parades, community feasts, charity show, the mass, St Patrick's Day is celebrated in Ireland with great gusto. The parades, shamrocks, and green beer are provided primarily for tourists. In fact, it has turned out to be one of the most celebrated events in Ireland and a major tourist attraction.

Saint Patrick's Day is celebrated worldwide by the Irish people and increasingly by many of non-Irish descent (usually in Australia, North America, and Ireland), hence the phrase, "Everyone wants to be Irish on St. Patrick's Day." Celebrations are generally themed around all things green and Irish; both Christians and non-Christians celebrate the secular version of the holiday by wearing green or orange, eating Irish food and/or green foods, imbibing Irish drink (usually Guinness), and attending parades.

Saint Patrick's Day parades in Ireland date from the late 19th century, originating in the growing sense of Irish nationalism. The St. Patrick's Day parade in Dublin, Ireland is part of a five-day festival; over 500,000 people attended the 2006 parade. With bands, music, dance, shamrock, leprechauns, green coloured clothing and loads of power packed performance, the Irish parade on Saint Patrick's Day is a sight to behold!

Almost everything in Ireland is closed on Saint Patrick's Day with the exception of pubs and restaurants. Many Irish people wear a bunch of shamrocks ("three-leaf clover") on their lapels or caps on this day or green, white, and orange badges (after the colors of the Irish flag). Girls and boys wear green in their hair. Artists draw shamrock designs on people's cheeks as a cultural sign, including American tourists.

The biggest celebrations on the island of Ireland outside Dublin are in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland, where Saint Patrick was buried following his death on 17 March, 461. In 2004, according to Down District Council, the week-long St. Patrick's Festival had over 2000 participants and 82 floats, bands, and performers, and was watched by over 30,000 people.

The day is celebrated by the Church of Ireland as a Christian festival. Saint Patrick's Day as a celebration of Irish culture was rarely acknowledged by Northern Irish loyalists, who consider it a festival of the Irish Republicans. The Belfast City Council recently agreed to give public funds to its parade for the first time; previously the parade was funded privately. The Belfast parade is based on equality and only the flag of St. Patrick is supposed to be used as a symbol of the day to prevent it being seen as a time which is exclusively for Republicans and Nationalists. This allowed both Unionists and Nationalists to celebrate the day together. The Unionists (orangemen) wear orange instead of green on St. Patrick's Day; both colors are in the Irish flag (although this the Irish flag is not an official flag in Northern Ireland, it being part of the United Kingdom), and orange often but not always represents the Protestants of Northern Ireland.

Outside Ireland

In the United Kingdom

The largest Saint Patrick's Day parade in the UK is held in Birmingham over a two mile route through the city centre. The organisers describe it as the third biggest parade in the world after Dublin and New York. Other Saint Patrick's Day parades take place around the country including in London where the largest minority community is Irish. The Lanarkshire town of Coatbridge where the majority of the town's population are of Irish descent also has a day of celebration and parades in the town centre. In Birmingham, St. Patrick's Festival is one of the city's premier community events, with the Irish community numbering around 140,000 people.

United KingdomManchester hosts a two week Irish festival in the weeks prior to St Patrick's Day, not surprising giving that the city claims the largest Irish population in Great Britain outside of London. The festival includes an Irish Market based at the city's town hall which flies the Irish tricolor opposite the Union Flag, a large parade (claiming to be the biggest outside of Dublin and New York based on entrant and float numbers) as well as a large number of cultural and learning events throughout the two-week period. The festival promotes itself as the largest in the UK.

Florence, Italy

ItalyAround St. Patrick's Day, the city hosts 'Festa Irlandese' - ten days of live music, food and drink. The event takes place in a huge tent and attracts thousands of visitors who avidly consume the Italian interpretation of Irish food and drink, including potato soup, beef in Guinness, smoked salmon and gallons of stout.

Oslo, Norway

NorwayThe Irish community in Oslo celebrates with a lively parade through the city. Nearly a thousand people join in the fun as the parade steps off through shopping streets, past Oslo cathedral, on to Town Hall Square for some entertainment. Accompanying the pipe band are St Patrick, driven by a red-bearded chauffer in a horse and cart, and a host of other colorful Irish characters.

In Germany

GermanyMunich is the only German city holding a St. Patrick's Day parade owing to the considerably large Irish community. The parade is organized by the German-Irish Society of Bavaria and has been held every year since 1996. Meanwhile it has evolved into the largest in continental Europe and features not only Irish/Scots/English, but also German clubs and societies. Following the 2 km-parade, which usually takes place the Sunday preceding 17 March, is an open air party with live music and dance performances.

In Denmark

DenmarkThe St. Patricks Day 3 Legged Charity Race started in Copenhagen in 2001. The race is organized by the Irish expert community and is sponsored by the Carlsberg brewery and the Irish pub owners of Copenhagen. In 2007, the event raised 26,000 DKK (~3,500 euro). All proceeds were donated to a Danish charity for children with cancer. All proceeds from the 2008 race will be donated to the Neonatal Department at Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen.

In Montserrat

MontserratThe tiny island of Montserrat, known as "Emerald Island of the Caribbean" due to its foundation by Irish refugees from Saint Kitts and Nevis, is the only place in the world apart from the Republic of Ireland and the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador in which St Patrick's Day is a public holiday. The holiday commemorates a failed slave uprising that occurred on 17 March 1798.

In Russia

On March 15, 1992, thousands of Muscovites lined the Novy Arbat to witness the first St. Patrick's Day Parade in the Russian capital's history. Yuri Luzhkov - now the current Mayor of Moscow - and Aer Rianta Chief Executive Derek Keogh were on the reviewing stand as a police escort led the way for Russian marching bands, Cossack horsemen, and fifteen floats representing many Russian companies. The parade, which was the brainchild of Derek Keogh, was a big success, and ensured a repeat performance the following year.

RussiaEach year the floats have become more numerous and sophisticated and the range of international and Russian participants and sponsors more wide-ranging such as Pepsi and Guinness. The local Irish bars of Moscow contribute their own floats and Muscovites reveal their own homegrown Irish Wolfhounds, which are nearly as big as the floats themselves.

The Moscow parade continued to be an annual event until 1998. The economic collapse of August 1998 meant that the 1999 parade was canceled. In 2000 the St Patrick's Society of Russia managed to re-establish the St Patrick's Day parade with the co-operation of the Moscow city government, the Moscow police, various government bodies, the Irish embassy and the Irish community in Moscow.

In South Korea

South KoreaIn Seoul, members of the expatriate community congregate on Daehakro (Taehongno), and a small parade goes up the street and then down again. Parade members include local expat sports teams, the Irish Community, and several Korean marching bands. In 2007, the Marronier park near Daehakro was filled with partygoers sampling Irish Stew and Guinness.

Tokyo, Japan

The tradition of holding parades is also upheld in Tokyo and every year you can watch and participate in the parade on Omote Sando. The Tokyo parade is organized by the Irish Network Japan (INJ) and was first held in 1992 with the support of the then Irish Ambassador to Japan, Mr. James Sharkey. Various dignitaries from many countries participate in the parade including the deputy prime minister of Ireland Mary Hearney in 2001.

JapanAbout 2,000 participants march down fashionable Omotesando Avenue, lined for the occasion by Irish and Japanese flags, cheered on by as many as 7,000 spectators. The Japanese love a good party and they are particularly fond of all things Irish - including Guinness at about $7.00 a pint! There are a growing number of Irish pubs that send attractive young ladies to the parade for the sole purpose of handing out free beer vouchers. Not surprisingly, the 'voucher girls' are a parade highlight!

In the United States

The early Irish immigrants like the English, Dutch, German, French and the likes, brought their traditions in United States. But it was not until 1737 that the immigrants really celebrated the Day. Irish colonists brought Saint Patrick's Day to what is now the United States of America. United StatesDuring the first civic and public celebration of Saint Patrick's Day in the 13 colonies, which took place in Boston, Massachusetts in 1737, The Charitable Irish Society of Boston organized what was the first Saint Patrick's Day Parade in the colonies on 17 March 1737. The first celebration of Saint Patrick's Day in New York City was held at the Crown and Thistle Tavern in 1756, and New York's first Saint Patrick's Day Parade was held on 17 March 1762 by Irish soldiers in the British Army. Held since 1762, the New York City parade on St Patrick's Day now draws more than one million spectators each year. In 1780, General George Washington, who commanded soldiers of Irish descent in the Continental Army, allowed his troops a holiday on 17 March. This event became known as The St. Patrick's Day Encampment of 1780. Today, Saint Patrick's Day is widely celebrated in America by Irish and non-Irish alike.

In the US, Americans celebrate the holiday by wearing green clothing. Many people, regardless of ethnic background, wear green-colored clothing and items. Traditionally, those who are caught not wearing green are pinched. Alcohol is the center of many American celebrations.

Some cities paint the traffic stripe of their parade routes green. Chicago even dyes its river green. Savannah dyes its downtown city fountains green. Indianapolis dyes its Central Canal green. University of Missouri Rolla - St. Pat's Board Alumni paint 12 city blocks Kelly green with mops before the annual parade.

Although the baseball season is still in the spring training phase when St. Patrick's Day rolls around, some teams celebrate by wearing St. Patrick's Day themed uniforms. The Cincinnati Reds were the first team to ever wear St. Patrick's Day hats in 1978. The Boston Red Sox were the second team to start wearing St. Patrick's Day hats in 1990. In 2004 the Red Sox were the first team to wear jerseys specially designed for St. Patrick's day. Since then it has become a tradition of many sports teams to also wear special uniforms to celebrate the holiday. The Los Angeles Dodgers also have a history with the Irish-American community. With the O'Malley family owning the team and now Frank McCourt, the Dodgers have had team celebrations or worn green jerseys on St. Patrick's Day. Other teams celebrate by wearing Kelly green hats these teams include: the Chicago Cubs, the Chicago White Sox, the New York Mets, the San Diego Padres, the Atlanta Braves, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Kansas City Royals, the Seattle Mariners and the St. Louis Cardinals. Nearly all major league baseball teams now produce St. Patrick's day merchandise, including Kelly green hats, jerseys, and t-shirts.

In the United States, many people have also made the holiday a celebration of the color green. These people, besides wearing green on that day, may also stage dinner parties featuring all green foods. An example of such a menu would be chicken with rice and lima beans with sliced green maraschino cherries in coconut sauce colored with green food coloring, a green salad including greens, avocados and sliced green apples, split pea soup, green tinted bread spiced with sage, Lime Jell-O, iced limeade and/or a green-beer, and lime pudding, key lime pie, or lime sherbet for dessert. Corned beef and cabbage is the most common meal eaten in the United States for St. Patrick's Day, even though historically, corned beef and cabbage is an American (rather than a traditionally Irish) meal.

Perhaps the smallest notable parade, World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade is said to take place in Hot Springs, Arkansas in the United States. Annually held on the historic Bridge Street the parade became famous in the 1940s when Ripley’s Believe It or Not designated it “The Shortest Street in the World.”

But Boulder, Colorado claims to have the shortest parade, which is also less than a single city block.

In Canada

In Canada, Saint Patrick's Day is an official holiday only in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Some groups, notably Guinness, have lobbied to make Saint Patrick's Day a federal (national) holiday.

CanadaThe longest-running Saint Patrick's Day parade in Canada occurs each year in Montreal, Québec. The parades have been held in continuity since 1824; however, St. Patrick's Day itself has been celebrated in Montreal as far back as 1759 by Irish soldiers in the Montreal Garrison following the British conquest of New France.

The Toronto St. Patrick's Day Parade is one of the largest in North America. Since it began in 1988, the parade has grown to include 100 organizations, 32 Irish county associations, 2,000 marchers, 30 floats, 14 bands as well as an assortment of wolfhounds, leprechauns and talking shamrocks.

In the Province of Manitoba, the Irish Association of Manitoba runs an annual three day festival of music and culture based around St Patrick's Day.

In Philadelphia

Philadelphia The Philadelphia St. Patrick's Parade is the 2nd oldest Parade in the Country, topped only by the New York City Parade. The first documented St. Patrick's Day Celebration Parade in Philadelphia was held in 1771, marking over 230 continuous years of celebrations.

In Savannah, Georgia

Savannah, GA, boasts the unofficial record of having the largest attendance in its St. Patrick's Day parade with the crowd count being declared as a staggering 750,000 in 2006. Unlike other cities, the parade in Savannah takes place on the actual day of Saint Patrick's Day; even if that day is during the work week. However for 2008, the parade will take place on Friday, March 14th, to honor Holy week in the Catholic faith. The parade starts at Saint John the Baptist Catholic Cathedral on Abercorn Street. GeorgiaThe actual parade route changes from year to year but usually travels through Savannah's Historic Park District and Bay Street. Usual participants in the parade include the local Armed Forces Units, Cadets from Benedictine Military School, and other local organizations, officials, and establishments. In 2006, the Deputy Prime Minister of Ireland was featured in the parade. Since the parade travels through Savannah's Historic Park District, one tradition that has developed has been the official "dyeing of the fountains" which happens several days before the parade. It has also become tradition for women spectators to kiss the Armed Forces Units and other military organization's male members.

The parade is not Savannah's only St. Patrick's day attraction. The Savannah Waterfront Association has an annual celebration on Historic River Street that is reminiscent of Mardi Gras on Bourbon Street. There is no cover charge to access River Street, but a $5 wristband is required if one chooses to drink there. Savannah does not have an open container law so there is a proliferation of alcohol on River Street, Bay Street and in City Market.

In Mexico

MexicoOn these day, and on September 12, the Saint Patrick's Battalion (Batallón de San Patricio) is memorialized. It fought as part of the Mexican Army against the United States in the Mexican-American War of 1846 to 1848, and was composed of several hundred Irish, Germans, Swiss, Scots and other Roman Catholics of European descent.

Although it's not a popular holiday in Mexico, sometimes school children hit, punch or slap anyone who is not wearing green in their clothes.

New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans, LouisianaNew Orleans has a parade that is strongly influenced by Mardi Gras. Unlike most parades, where the participants staidly walk the parade route - with, perhaps, an occasional display of Irish dancing, the parade at New Orleans features floats, jazz bands and colorful costumed characters, with float riders throwing spectators strings of beads, cabbages, and potatoes.

Syracuse, New York

New YorkThe city of Syracuse, NY has a parade that culminates with the delivery of green beer to Coleman's Irish Pub in the Tipperary Hill section of the city and the painting of a shamrock in front of the pub. Tipperary Hill is home to the World famous "Green-on-Top" Traffic Light. It is the Irish section in Syracuse Historically. Syracuse boasts the largest St. Patrick's day celebration per-capita in the United States.

New York City

The New York parade has become the largest Saint Patrick's Day parade in the world. In 2006 more than 150,000 marchers participated in it, including bands, firefighters, military and police groups, county associations, emigrant societies, and social and cultural clubs, and it was watched by close to 2 million spectators lining the streets. New York CityThe parade marches up 5th Avenue in Manhattan and is always led by the U.S. 69th Infantry Regiment. It is the only New York City parade in which the marchers head uptown instead of downtown. New York politicians - or those running for office - are always found prominently marching in the parade. Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch once proclaimed himself "Ed O'Koch" for the day,[16] and he continues to don an Irish sweater and march every year, even though he is no longer in office. In a similar fashion, new New York state governor Eliot Spitzer marched in and even visited the morning Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral for the 2007 parade.

The parade is organized and run by the Ancient Order of Hibernians.[citation needed] For many years, the St. Patrick's Day Parade was the primary public function of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. On occasion the order has appointed controversial Irish republican figures (some of whom were barred from the U.S.) to be its Grand Marshal. [citation needed]

While it is a popular misconception that the St. Patrick's Day Parade bans 'lesbians and gays', the fact is that essentially all politically motivated groups, including pro-life groups, are banned from the Parade in an effort to keep politics out of a festive community celebration. Gays and lesbians are welcome to be in the Parade as members of any of the groups allowed.

The New York parade is moved to the previous Saturday (16 March) in years where 17 March is a Sunday. The event is also moved on the rare occasions when, due to Easter falling on a very early date, 17 March would land in Holy Week. This same scenario is scheduled to arise again in 2008, when Easter will also fall on 23 March. In many other American cities (such as San Francisco), the parade is always held on the Sunday before 17 March, regardless of the liturgical calendar.

Seattle, Washington

Seattle celebrates St Patrick's Day in grand style, with a full week of activities. Festivities kick off with the proclamation of Irish Week. Seattle, WashingtonDue to Seattle's northern state climates, like Ireland, the city received many Irish immigrants. So many that Seattle and Galway are sister cities. Every year on St. Patrick's Day, there's a mini-parade to prepare the parade route with the ceremonial painting of a green stripe down the center of 4th Avenue. The day of the parade begins with a Catholic Mass for peace. The Seattle Parade starts at 4th Avenue and Jefferson to the Reviewing Stand at Westlake Park, ending officially at the Seattle Center. The annual Irish Week Festival is enormous, including Irish step dancing, food, historical and modern exhibitions, and Irish lessons. This is all celebrated on March 14. And may be carried on till the 15, 16, and 17 of March.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas, NevadaThe Southern Nevada, (formerly Las Vegas) Sons of Erin has put on a parade since 1966. It was formerly held on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas, later moved to 4th street. Since 2005, the parade has been held in downtown Henderson. It is one of the biggest parades in the state of Nevada. It also consists of a three day festival, carnival and classic car show in Old Town Henderson.

In Argentina

In Argentina, and specially in Buenos Aires, all-night long parties are celebrated in designated streets, since the weather is comfortably warm in March. People dance and drink only beer throughout the night, until seven or eight in the morning, and although the tradition of mocking those who do not does not exist, most people would wear something green. ArgentinaIn Buenos Aires, the party is held in downtown street Reconquista, where there are several Celtic bars ; in 2006, there were 50,000 people in this street and the pubs nearby.

Despite all these varieties, the festivities all over the world are driven by the same spirit. And why not? After all, everybody is Irish on St. Patrick's Day. While it reminds us about St Patrick, the day is also a celebration for being Irish and enjoying everything Irish. So make an attempt to have the real fun of being Irish. Adorn yourself in green clothing, pin the shamrocks, hunt for the leprechaun (well, not really), cook and feast the Irish way, laugh away all worries with Irish jokes and dance to the tunes of the Irish bands. Top o' the morning to ye!

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