St. Patrick’s Day in Pictures: How the World Celebrates
Take a look at how people all over the world celebrate the patron saint of Ireland on March 17. Then break out your best green attire—it's time to celebrate!
Why we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day
You may not have any Irish blood in your lineage, but that probably hasn’t stopped you from adding a little green to your ensemble each year on March 17. In the United States, the occasion has become synonymous with all things green—from clothing to beer to green-tinted meals. But what makes us drum up the luck o’ the Irish annually? St. Patrick’s Day, celebrated on March 17, is the feast day named in honor of, you guessed it. St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. While he is known to have converted the Irish to Christianity by the hundreds, there’s a great deal of lore surrounding the man himself. For example, legend has it he drove snakes out of Ireland and embraced the force of the shamrock to explain the Trinity (that would be the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). For this reason the Irish celebrated him and later immigrants brought this revelry to the United States and beyond. Today, St. Patrick’s Day is largely an excuse to belly up to the nearest bar, especially in the United States.
In the Windy City, it’s tradition for the midwest metropolis to dye the Chicago River green during the morning hours of St. Paddy’s Day. This kicks of their festivities, which include a parade downtown and then a second hullabaloo the next day, known as the South Side Irish Parade, reports Time Out Chicago. The city first started dyeing the river green way back in 1962 and, interestingly, the dye responsibilities have always fallen with two local families, the Rowans and the Butlers, according to Mike Rowan, who handles the greenifying duties. “The original Mayor Daley in the 1950s wanted to do something special, he wanted to dye the whole of Lake Michigan green,” he told CNN. “But it was just too huge to do. The next best thing was the Chicago River.” Clearly the tradition stuck! Find out 21 more things you never knew about St. Patrick’s Day.
New York City
Not to be outdone by Chicago, New York City has amassed its own St. Patrick’s Day traditions with numerous ways to celebrate the holiday. In fact, the Big Apple’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade is even older than the Declaration of Independence. The city’s first parade kicked off in 1762, a whopping 14 years before the declaration was signed, according to the event’s official website. Annually it kicks off at 11 a.m., rain or shine, with approximately 2 million people in attendance. In addition to this mobile celebration, you’ll see the Empire State Building and other skyscrapers lit up in green to mark the occasion. Here’s why the color green is associated with St. Patrick’s Day in the first place.
If you find yourself fortunate enough to be in Ireland itself for St. Paddy’s Day, there are a bevy of celebrations to choose from, as you can imagine. In the country’s capital of Dublin, it’s generally the tourists you’ll find getting rowdy with pub crawls and a raucous party atmosphere. Locals, however, keep it more low key, explains Travel & Leisure. Yes, they may enjoy Dublin’s impressive St. Patrick’s Day Parade, however, the holiday becomes more of a family affair, with loved ones gathering for special dinners and celebrants seeking out concerts or other musical performances.
Oui, oui—the French absolutely do celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in their own chic and fashionable way. Dôme de Paris – Palais des Sports has been known to showcase an Irish Celtic show around the big day, and the famed Roman Catholic church Sacré Coeur Basilica is bathed in green lights to celebrate, according to Sotiraparis. The Irish Cultural Center in Paris also gets in on the action by hosting four days of events that salute the country’s music and dance. Wherever you choose to celebrate, these 11 St. Patrick’s Day traditions are meant to bring you luck.
Auckland, New Zealand
Don’t count Auckland, New Zealand out from St. Patrick’s Day celebrations that are well worth mentioning. With a vibrant route along the city’s Queen Street, revelers enjoy the spectacles of the holiday’s only parade in the Southern Hemisphere. Post-procession the fun doesn’t stop, with a Celtic music and dance commemoration on the outskirts of Auckland Town Hall. These festivities began back in 1995 when a group of Irish organizers decided to put the jovial event together. New Zealand and Ireland may have thousands of miles between them in physical distance, but the St. Patrick’s Day events bring the two countries closer together in the figurative sense. These 12 St. Patrick’s Day “facts” simply aren’t true.
Tokyo loves a good St. Patrick’s Day party—so much so that Irish Central reports the city hosts an impressive 15 different St. Paddy’s parades and festivals. One of the earliest kicked off in 1992 as a small sidewalk procession that traveled from the Irish Embassy to Roppongi Wave record store. Today the celebrations have gotten bigger, much bigger. “St. Patrick’s Day is the celebration of a good man who came to Ireland in 432 and who was, by all accounts, in tune with nature and our Celtic heritage,” former Irish ambassador Anne Barrington told the Japan Times. “Then there’s the openness of Japanese people to absorb new ideas and make them their own.” In the debate between St. Patty vs. St. Paddy’s, find out which is correct.
As neighbors to Ireland, it seems fitting that England would make a big deal out of St. Patrick’s Day, particularly in the city of London. For the past 18 years, the governing mayor has hosted a celebration for the masses, including cultural nods that meld those from Ireland and England. One way in which the London event is different from those across the rest of the globe is they rally around a different theme each year. In 2020, the focus is Women in Sport, supporting the Federation of Irish Sports 20×20 campaign to increase awareness of women in sports. With a parade, food, music, and the best of the Irish arts, it’s a full weekend of memory-making fun. While we’re on this global jaunt, read up on 25 world facts you didn’t know you wanted to know.
New York City may hold the title of longest-running St. Patrick’s Day parade globally, but Montreal can boast having the oldest parade in Canada. Since 1824, the procession graces the city’s Saint-Catherine Street with three hours worth of spectacle. While Montreal.org can only estimate it’s metropolis boast’s the third largest St. Paddy’s celebration in the world, the city can factually lay claim to something very important to the Irish: The very first memorial to the Great Famine erected anywhere across the world. It’s known as both The Black Rock and Irish Commemorative Stone and has been in places since the 1860s.
Americans may not immediately equate the southern city of Savannah with Ireland, but they sure will if they’re ever lucky enough to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the old Georgia city. The parade brings in more than 500,000 visitors, literally turning Savannah green for the festive occasion. There are vendors selling all sorts of St. Paddy’s swag, not to mention food, drink, and tons of live music. Two venues in Savannah are where the most action takes place—City Market and River Street, aptly located next to the Savannah River. Here’s why we say “Erin go Bragh“ on St. Patrick’s Day.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t include Boston in this roundup of St. Patrick’s Day fun. As the state with the most Irish descendants, naturally, there is a lot of celebrating going on during the month of March. A parade? Sure thing. But there are also guided walks of the Irish Heritage Trail, an Irish film festival, and events that take a deep dive into the plight of Irish immigrants at the JFK Library. There’s also corned beef and cabbage served at restaurants at almost every turn, who can say no to that?