Your guide to St. Patrick’s Day – to be sure, to be sure!
On March 17, everyone is a little bit Irish. Today, whilst most people associate the day with wearing something green, sporting shamrock accessories and drinking lots of Guinness or stout, the history of St. Patrick’s Day and the celebrations once looked very different.
In the lead up to St. Patrick’s Day this year, our Travel Partner experts will give you the history of such a day and share with you where you can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day around the world.
WHO IS SAINT PATRICK?
Saint Patrick, believed to have been originally named Maewyn Succat, is thought to have been born in either Roman Britain or France during the late 4th century and brought up by a religious family. At the age of 16 he was kidnapped by Irish pirates and brought to Ireland and subjected to slavery.
After escaping and returning to his family at the age of 22, he began to study Christianity, becoming a cleric and taking the name Patrick. After apparently having a vision, Saint Patrick returned to Ireland as a missionary to preach what he had learned. He devoted his life establishing the Catholic Church in Ireland, and within 30 years of baptising, confirming and ordaining priests, erecting schools and monasteries, old religions faded and the whole nation had been converted. He and his followers are said to have built many of Ireland’s earliest churches, such as the one at Saul County Down, which has been credited as the first Christian Church in Ireland.
Saint Patrick is thought to have died on March 17, 461 and has long been recognised as Ireland’s primary patron saint for his role in bringing Christianity to the country.
THE HISTORY OF ST. PATRICK’S DAY
St. Patrick’s Day celebrations date as far back as the ninth and tenth centuries and were originally celebrated with fasting and prayer – not the kind of celebrations that we think about today. In fact, for most of the 20th century (up until the 1970’s), pubs and bars in Ireland were actually closed on March 17.
The significance and stories of Saint Patrick became ingrained in Irish culture, and celebrations have evolved throughout the centuries. Now a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Montserrat and Newfoundland and Labrador, St. Patrick’s Day to many means a day off work and spending the day with family with feasts of indulgent food, alcohol and the colour green and shamrocks being worn symbolising Irish culture and the beginning of Spring.
According to legend, Saint Patrick used the shamrock to explain to the Irish the Holy Trinity, as each clover represented God as the father, the Son or the Holy Spirit. It therefore became the official flower of Ireland and is widely used as decorations in celebrations today.
CELEBRATIONS IN IRELAND
The celebrations for St. Patrick’s Day have come a long way. Today, Dublin is home to a five-day St. Patrick’s festival, complete with a parade, concerts, theatre performances, and fireworks. The town of Downpatrick, where the saint is said to be buried, has a pretty impressive celebration as well. With a parade featuring thousands of participants (and an audience of thousands more), it’s not a bad place to wear the green!
In Belfast, there is a plethora of ways to celebrate the day, starting with ‘The SPAR Craic 10K’ run to kick-start your celebrations early in the morning with 1300 other racers. From 12 noon the colourful Carnival Parade at City Hall kicks off, featuring performances from youth groups, comedy acts and musical talents. A concert at Custom Square House in the afternoon and a visit to Belfast’s famous market – St George’s Markets, will also bring gourmet food stalls, locally crafted fashion and jewellery.
THE TOP 10 ST. PATRICK’S DAY CELEBRATIONS AROUND THE WORLD
Whilst St. Patrick’s Day is now widely celebrated across the globe, here is our top ten destinations to celebrate the day of the Irish.
1. DUBLIN, IRELAND
Up until 1995, celebrations in Ireland were religious and low-key. But today, Dublin hosts a 4-day St. Patrick’s Festival that includes street performances, open-mic storytelling competitions, theatre, music and film. An open-air venue hosts Irish dancing and the street parade attracts more than half a million spectators through downtown Dublin with music provided by bands all over Ireland.
2. MONTSERRAT, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS
This Caribbean island hosts a week-long celebration that doubles as the commemoration for slave uprising, resulting in a unique blend of Irish and African music and food, plus hilarious activities such as “Catch the Mermaid” and “Leprechaun’s Revenge”. It’s also the only place outside of Ireland to have a public holiday on St. Patrick’s Day.
3. NEW YORK, UNITED STATES
The first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in New York in 1762 and today it is the world’s largest, with 150,000 participants and two million spectators. Grab a spot on Fifth Avenue for four hours of marching bands, bagpipe players, police and army contingents, Irish dancers and so much more. Mass is also held at Fifth Avenue’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
4. BOSTON, UNITED STATES
The first recorded St. Patrick’s Day parade was actually held by Irish refugees in Boston on 1737. The historic and prominent ‘The South Boston Parade’ honours war veterans and features floats, bands, bagpipes and baton-twirling cheerleaders. Irish dancers perform at the JFK library, guided walks lead around an Irish Heritage Trail and an Irish film festival runs for four days. Many local pubs host music and comedy shows, and hometown Celtic punk-rock group The Dropkick Murphys always performs.
5. CHICAGO, UNITED STATES
Third great Irish-American city Chicago also hosts a notable parade, its most famous for dying its river green with eco-friendly vegetable dye. Witness buildings illuminate green, race the Emerald Isle Mile, check out crafts and music at the family-friendly Irish American Heritage Centre or enjoy a lunch cruise on Lake Michigan.
6. VANCOUVER, CANADA
The Canadian city hosts a five-day CelticFest showcasing dance, music, ballads, film, traditional sports and Irish food. Of course, there’s a parade with acrobats, mounted police and stilt walkers. A weekend Celtic Village downtown Granville Street supplied a street market, food and face-painting. The Tom Lee Music Hall hosts workshops in fiddle, flute and bodhran drum.
7. MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM
The Manchester Irish Festival claims to be Europe’s largest and runs for almost the entire month. From breakfast parties to pub music sessions and Irish language and dancing lessons. Albert Square is host to the Irish Markets with live entertainment, traditional foods and plenty of kitsch. And the kids will absolutely love the Leprechaun House.
8. OSLO, NORWAY
Oslo is the place to go if you want to join in a parade yourself. The lively event kicks off at 12pm in Jernbanetorget and includes participants dressed up as St. Patrick, Molly Malone and leprechauns. There’s a special mass at the cathedral and finishes with a buffet lunch with music supplied by visiting Irish groups.
9. TOKYO, JAPAN
Tokyo’s wacky Harajuku districts hosts a St Patrick’s Day parade that is probably the biggest in Asia that marches along Omotesando. It features tap dancers, US army bands, juggling acts and people dressed as giant glasses of Guinness. After the parade hit up any of the several Irish pubs or the Hard Rock Café Roppongi. Be sure to check out the I Love Ireland Festival at Yoyogi Park the following day too.
10. PARIS, FRANCE
On this one day a year, you’ll find a great blend of Parisians and homesick Irish making merry in the many Irish pubs. The Irish Cultural Centre hosts traditional music, plays and folk dancing. Sacre Coeur Basilica, which looms over the capital, is floodlit green, and the Moulin Rouge becomes the Moulin Vert. Disneyland Paris also participates in the celebrations.
GET INVOLVED IN THE CELEBRATIONS
No matter where you are, one thing is for sure – you must have a drink of Guinness or stout. International drinks company Diageo reports that more than 13 million pints of stout are drunk across the world on St Patrick’s Day, nearly three times as much than a normal day.
Here’s some handy tips to help you get into the spirit and celebrate this Irish tradition.
Go green: Wear an item of green clothing. It could be as simple as a t-shirt, or go all the way and dress up in a leprechaun outfit! If not, keep it simple with a shamrock badge, tiepin, or ear-rings. (Shamrocks are said to be lucky charms.)
Learn the lingo: There are some typical Irish words and phrases, such as “What’s the craic?”, which means, ”How’s it going?” and “Grand”, which is a multi-purpose for good, great, wonderful!
Learn to dance: Whilst not the easiest to learn, Irish dancing is a lot of fun, plus it’s a great way to burn off the additional calories from all the Guinness you are likely to consume.
Join a parade: A five-day festival in Dublin is the place to head if you want to join in almost a week of St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Smaller local parades take place in many other places across the globe with all sorts of fun to get involved with and watch.
Drink Guinness: A half or full pint of the traditional Irish drink of stout is a must-do if you are celebrating St Patrick’s Day. There are plenty of Irish themed pubs that you could go to for a more authentic experience. An alternative to Guinness is to drink Irish whiskey or cup after cup of Irish tea. Tradition has it that Irish people are obsessive tea drinkers.
Make green cakes: If you have to work, why not take green-iced cakes to the office and celebrate with a coffee and cake.
Book an Irish holiday: There is nothing like celebrating St Patrick’s Day than in the home country itself. Talk to us today about booking a trip to the Emerald Isle.
ENJOY THE LUCK OF THE IRISH
No matter where you happen to be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day this year, we hope that you have a mighty ‘craic’ of a time and enjoy a Guinness or two.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day and safe travels from Travel Partners Australia ✈️🍀🌈💰