The countdown is on for the biggest cultural and religious extravaganza that is St Patrick’s Day! Prepare to ‘go green’ on March 17th to celebrate the patron saint of Ireland.
The religious holiday honours Saint Patrick (AD 387–461) who first introduced Christianity to Ireland. The day evolved as an official feast day during the 17th century and today the whole world joins the revelry. The 17th of March is officially a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland as well as Montserrat, Newfoundland and Labrador. Many major cities across the world hold their own celebrations and here we look at what’s going on this St Patrick’s Day;
How Dublin Celebrates St Patrick’s Day
Attendance at church services in the morning has always been part of the traditional St Patricks Day celebrations in Dublin. In 1903 it was declared an official Irish holiday. Another tradition has been an afternoon and evening of heavy drinking and merrymaking. The first parade held in celebration of this thoroughly Irish holiday was in 1931. Since the late 1990’s this previously religious holiday became a festival to showcase Irish culture. The crowds attending the annual Saint Patrick’s Day parade now number over one million. Throughout Ireland every city, town and village, no matter how small have some type of parade and celebration. In one city the parade is only 100 meters long, traveling between the only two pubs in the city. One custom that is observed in many places is the wearing of green. This is an offshoot of the original Irish custom, in the 1600’s of wearing green ribbons, or a cloverleaf if ribbons were not available or affordable.
St Patrick’s Day parties across the USA
Let it be known that the US goes mad for St Patricks Day! Although it’s not an official holiday, Chicago and New York party as if it is! The largest American parade takes place in New York City and is televised. Parties and exhibitions are held in celebration of Irish culture, just as in Ireland itself. In Chicago, famously the Chicago River, which runs throughout the downtown area, has been turned shamrock green since 1962, thanks to lots of eco-friendly dye. In addition to festive parades, expect plenty of traditional Irish cuisine and the odd pint of Guinness! Throughout America wearing green is obligatory, unless you want to be pinched by those who are decked in green. Even a green ribbon will spare a person from the pain of a pinch.
Celebrations in the UK
Even the Queen gets into the spirit on the 17th of March! With fresh shamrocks (a young sprig of clover) flown in from Ireland, the Queen presents each member of the Irish Guards a shamrock to wear for the day. Even the sport of horse racing joins in, with the Cheltenham Festival dedicating a day of races – this year it’s called ‘St Patricks Thursday’. In London some notable fountains have their water dyed green, building are lit up and the Saint Patrick’s Day parade is the world’s third largest, following those held in Dublin and New York. Some sort of celebration for this holiday is usually held wherever British citizens are living throughout the world, most notably in British Commonwealth nations.
Many people are surprised to find out that the oldest documented celebrations in North America have been held in Montreal, Canada since the year 1824. Notably, the flag of Montreal has a shamrock in one corner of the flags design. Various cities throughout Canada celebrate this unofficial holiday, with some provinces, such as Manitoba, having festivals lasting as many as three days long. Two Canadian provinces have declared Saint Patrick’s Day as a provincial official holiday. Those are Newfoundland and Labrador.
Because March is a warm weather month in South America, the festive merry making in Argentina is generally restricted to cooler evening hours. The parties and drinking usually last until eight o’clock in the morning. Interestingly, in Argentina the Catholic Church and people Irish decent are not particularly involved in planning of the celebrations. Rather it is the commercial establishments that benefit from increased eating and drinking the plan and hold most Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations.
Singapore Saint Patrick’s Day Observance
In Singapore there are many parties and gatherings for this festive day as Singapore was once part of the British Empire and a large British presence still exists in this small city state. A large number of western expatriates also gather at Singaporean pubs and bars. Many come from Malaysia or Indonesia where fewer opportunities are found to participate in the observance of Saint Patrick’s Day.
In Japan few celebrations are held by Japanese citizens, except for those involved with serving expatriate customers. These international employees of multinational corporations gather at bars and pubs on this day. Their celebrations are the same has held in other countries.