The Irish people as a whole have bestowed a lot on the world. Yes, they are a relatively small country; however, Ireland has produced six ginormous distractions: 1. The heckler, 2. Some say boxing; 3. Others say potatoes; 4. More say leprechauns; 5. But, we all say, thankfully, “pint o’ Guinness.” The one other undeniable (this time) fact is that the Irish also gave us: 6. St. Patrick’s Day. A day of shamrocks and green bedecked parades, St. Patrick’s Day, like the hardy tuber, has religious roots in Ireland with more secular offshoots and celebrations elsewhere. Here’s how the St. Patrick’s Holy Day in Ireland turns into the St. Patrick’s Party Day in the rest of the world.
St. Patrick’s Day, often shortened to St. Paddy’s Day, is celebrated around the world, whether people know Mr. St. Patrick’s story or not. Some, however, at least guess that the holiday is dedicated to a great man, probably a Saint, who died on March 17th, a long time ago. The celebrations start in one part of the world and finish in the other at this time every year. When the sun shines over Ireland on March 17th, a lucky event indeed in Ireland, the rest of the world hoots and hollers with parades, festivities, performances and….Green rivers?...Green streets?...and…What?...Green Beer?
Large and small cities alike, and the streets and pubs within them, become green with envy to have the best St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Cities in the US like Chicago, Indianapolis, New York, San Francisco, Denver, New Orleans and Philly all uniquely celebrate the pious St. Patrick. Other cities such as Savannah, Jamestown, Buffalo, New Haven and the tiny Hot Springs, Arkansas, incorporate green celebrations, with the latter holding a world record on two accounts. Additionally, other countries such as New Zealand, Australia, Norway, Japan, Italy, Canada, Montserrat, Brazil and Uruguay celebrate the righteous St. Patrick in their own way. Here’s how:
Chicago, USA - Probably one of the most interesting St. Patrick’s Day celebrations occurs in Chicago. By and by, Chicago has made an increasingly dedicated hoopla about this holiday. When the Irish are involved, though, everyone knows it’s going to be quite the social event! In the 1960s, sewer workers in Chicago used green dye to check for leaks in pipes. These fellahs must have known how to party, as the idea to turn the river green for St. Paddy’s Day began in the drains and sewers of this Windy City.
The city used to dump tons of vegetable dye that would keep the rivers green for up to five days. Now, the verdant hues dissipate into the typical sludge black after only a few hours, as less dye is used. Other cities that make their rivers and canals green include Indianapolis, Indiana, Savannah, Georgia, and Jamestown, New York. Other cities paint the streets and curbs green, including parts of Missouri and Chicago. All the major cities, like Chicago, New York, Philly, Buffalo, San Francisco, St. Paul, Baltimore, Denver, New Haven and New Orleans have parades and afternoon festivities. Many bars serve green beer and food.
Seattle, USA - Seattle, Washington, probably wins the trophy for the longest celebration in the USA. Irish week gets cracking with a small parade and a wide, green stripe painted down 4th avenue. When everyone is happy and tipsy, a mass is called for world peace. Wouldn’t everyone be more peaceful if we were always a little well oiled?
The World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade is held on Bridge Street in downtown Hot Springs, Arkansas. The street is, by Ripley’s Believe It or Not standards, the shortest street in the world, where green fireworks light up the night sky. Hot Springs is also home of the shortest parade in the world. Did anyone say green-fried catfish? There’s even a pub-crawl. Is this before or after the moonshine?
Montreal, Canada - Montreal, Quebec, in Canada, nevertheless, has the longest running St. Patrick’s Day parade. Celebrators have been marching down the same route since 1824, though St. Patrick Day celebrations occurred sixty years before this lionized procession by immigrants. In Manitoba there is a three-day (if drunk, longer) music festival and a parade in Toronto that attracts well over 100,000 people.
New Zealand & Australia - In New Zealand, there are smaller crowds but equally as celebratory with old and young alike taking to the pubs and streets to drink and poke fun well into the night. Down Under in Australia, the month of March is a big carnival month. Many of the activities throughout the month have an Irish motif. A huge mass is held in St. Mary’s Church in Sydney.
Caribbean - The other island nation, this time in the Caribbean, set to celebrate the holiday is Montserrat, where it is an official public holiday. It is in celebration of the slave uprising against Irish sugar cane planters in 1768. Drinking is a common denominator to many of the celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day the world over.
Tokyo, Japan - In Japan, Tokyo is the place to find the 2,000-person parade. Almost 10,000 people show up to watch. The Japanese Ambassador to Japan gets involved, even wearing a kilt with bagpipe players leading the way. Japanese girls are hired to hand out free beer vouchers to onlookers and passerby. The girls are more of a hit than the parade, as often happens.
Malaysia - Malaysia too will kick off St. Patrick’s Day with black-tie ball expected to receive well over 1,000 attendees. The dance and dinner is put on by, who knew, the St. Patrick’s Society of Selangor, est. 1925.
Oslo, Norway - Even over in Oslo, Norway, the Irish community and others get involved with some serious celebrating. St. Patrick himself (or his likeness) is carried around in a horse and carriage by a chauffer. People dress up as other Irish characters and even walk through the streets as their favorite Irish bar drinks, including the walking whiskey bottle! If you don’t wear a costume or something green, you may have green beer poured all over you. Uhm…I’ll take the pinch.
South America - The celebrations even make it to the streets of some South America countries. As Carnival just ended last month, Brazilians in Sao Paulo take to the streets. Foreigners and locals alike culminate in Irish pubs and dance the night away in the streets with Irish whiskey and Guinness in hand(s). Similarly, Uruguayans dance to Irish music, drink beer and stay up to the wee hours of morn. The idea of wearing green has also permeated this far south of the equator. As the Irish songs beat and the Irish beer sprays through the air, you can rest assure that St. Patrick’s Day, like potatoes and bar fights, will catch on to each country in no time soon.
History Always Makes People So Green
St. Patrick was a nifty Saint. He’s the fellow who saved Ireland from the satanic snakes slithering through the island. (Ireland has no snakes. St. Paddy must have been quite the exterminator.) Mr. St. Patrick actually brought Christianity (Catholicism) to Ireland, this act ridding the Island of the metaphorical pagan snakes. It was the fifth or sixth century, and pubescent Patrick was captured (some say enslaved) and taken from England to Ireland by raiders. (Yep, St. Patrick isn’t really Irish. He came back later.)
After six years, Patrick escaped back to England only to have a (dream) visit by an angel. In it, he was directed to return to Ireland as a missionary. After studying for twelve years in France and England, he went west and north, preaching the Good word. He became the patron Saint to Ireland in the eighth century, in his lifetime creating the Celtic cross, the sun behind the cross, and the general notion of the Holy Trinity through the shamrock, a clover of three adjoined leaves, now the national mark of Ireland. St. Patrick’s Day is the celebration of the life and death of Maewyn Succat, or Patricius, or Patrick.
St. Succat Day just doesn’t have the same ring to it, so the Romanized St. Patrick’s Day name stuck, and the drinking began!