Get ready to see green and more green in many places around the world on March 17, St. Patrick's Day. The traditional Irish celebration has become a global event to honor Irish heritage and culture with drink, food and parades. Would you believe that the St. Patrick's Day celebrations around the world are even grander than in Ireland where St. Patrick was born?
Indeed, the celebrations for St. Patrick's Day have encroached into many destinations, helped by globalization and Irish diasporas. Probably the charm and luck of the Irish has rubbed on millions of people worldwide.
The general events are typically modest, since most of them are parties, a time to connect with family and friends. The activities surrounding the day are quirky, grandiose and festive. Remember the Chicago River flowing with green water and the world's biggest permanent shamrock pavement in O'Neill (Nebraska)?
As one of the world's most celebrated festivals, the activities during St. Patrick's Day are fun to watch. You are invited to join, so check out the destinations you can visit to experience the joie de vivre of the Irish and the Irish at hearts, made more colorful and different by the cultural contributions of each location.
Who is Saint Patrick?
Patrick was the only name used by the saint as recorded in his writings. He used Pātricius on the documents he wrote, which is the Latin version of Pátraic (Old Irish), Pádraig (Modern Irish) and Padrig (Welsh). He was a bishop in Ireland in the 5th century and chroniclers believed that he was born in the 4th century in Roman Britain. He came from a religious family and said to be kidnapped when he was 16 years old by Irish raiders and made to work as a slave, tending to sheep for 6 years. During that time, he ''found God" and managed to escape from Gaelic Ireland to go back home.
He decided to be a priest like his grandfather and made it his mission to convert the pagans in Ireland. According to the accepted belief, he died on March 17, which became his feast day. Many legends about Patrick grew over the years, which led to him to become a saint and the patron saint of Ireland.
Connection with the color green
Traditionally, people celebrating St. Patrick's Day wear green accessories, green clothing or shamrocks. A shamrock or clover is distinct for being a 3-leaf plant that grows low on the ground. The term shamrock originated from the Irish word seamróg, a diminutive form of seamair, the Irish term for 'plant.' The literal meaning of shamrock is young plant or little plant.
It became associated with St. Patrick because it is said that he used the plant to illustrate the Holy Trinity when he was preaching to pagans in Ireland. The saint's efforts could be helped by the fact that the number 3 is very meaningful in Ireland and the country has several triple divinities.
There are many other stories regarding the association of the green color to Ireland throughout the country's history but the story regarding St. Patrick is one of the most popular and shared around. Green became associated with so many things, from religion to mythology, politics, brotherhoods, nationalism, flags and of course, St. Patrick and his special day.
And today, when the world observes St. Patrick's Day, you not only see people wearing green clothes, hats, wigs, accessories and makeup. There are green-themed food, green beer and other drinks, and green parades. And most of all, several iconic monuments and destinations take on a green shade once every year.
Worldwide celebrations of Saint Patrick's Day
It's true that the observance of St. Patrick's Day began as a religious festival, but it took a life of its own since the first parade in 1762 to honor the increasing Irish immigrant population in New York. Today, the celebration has become a global and multi-cultural event, celebrating Irish cultures with dance, music, traditional foods, parades and plenty of green things.
In the Caribbean island of Monserrat, there is a settlement of Irish Catholics that started during the 17th century. The island celebrates St. Patrick Day for 10 days and likewise commemorates the first rebellion of slaves on the island. Some of the activities include a freedom walk and freedom run, kite festival and calypso dancing competition. Visitors on the island receive a shamrock stamp on their passports. St. Patrick's Day is a public holiday in Montserrat.
On the Saturday before the event or on the day of the event itself if it falls on a Saturday, the water flowing on Chicago River becomes green. The green dye is applied at around 9 a.m. before the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the city starts at noon. Spectators gather early to find the best spot to see the bright green, environmentally safe dye poured into the river and watch the water change color. Various events are scheduled for the day, including theater shows and fun runs. The annual parade always includes bagpipe players and Irish step dancers. The unique celebration in Chicago has been going on for more than 50 years.
On St. Patrick's Day, the London Eye, which is the tallest Ferris wheel in Europe, is fitted with green lights. This year's celebration will feature marching bands and colorful floats. The parade, which begins at noon, will start from Piccadilly's Green Park to Trafalgar Square. Around the city's Irish pubs there will be a variety of parties. At Trafalgar Square, people can witness exhibitions, storytelling, Irish music, Irish dancing and other live entertainment.
New York City
The Empire State Building is already famous for changing its lights for holidays, sporting events and other festivals. For St. Patrick's Day, the building takes on the colors orange, white and green. The parade in New York is one of the world's largest. It goes on for six hours, featuring about 150,000 performers, including bagpipers, dancers and numerous floats.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The most famous monument in Rio de Janeiro is the statue of Christ the Redeemer on top of the Corcovado Mountain. It stands 98-foot high. It's a symbol of Christianity all over the world. To honor St. Patrick and his special day, green lights illuminate the statue.
At the highest point in Paris is the Sacred Heart Basilica (Sacré Coeur Basilica), which is a Catholic church in the French capital. The basilica, along with other Parisian landmarks is green lit on St. Patrick's Day.
Just like what happens in the Chicago River, the Vilnia River, which runs through Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, is dyed green on St. Patrick's Day. It is an event that is watched by thousands of spectators.
It is said the city of Sydney charges Ireland in order to go green on St. Patrick's Day. Sydney's most iconic landmark, the Sydney Opera House, turns green on March 17. For 2019's festivities, the city's The Rocks will be turned into an Irish village. There will still be a family day and the annual parade, said to the second biggest in the world after New York. There will also be a children's parade, live musical entertainment, craft stalls and food vendors.
Auckland, New Zealand
Auckland's Sky Tower, the tallest building in New Zealand and located at SKYCITY, will be lit in green for its 2019 celebration of St. Patrick's Day. Auckland will hold a Fleadh (Irish cultural festival). The Irish pubs around the city will be having parties while the Auckland Irish Society Carnival will feature Gaelic football, Irish food stalls and other Irish-inspired activities.
Typically, you see Egypt's colossal monuments, the Sphinx and the Pyramids of Giza bathed in warm golden colors when lit. But to honor St. Patrick, its floodlights will use green lights. Cairo started ''greening'' their most famous icons in 2013.
Irish communities are found in Brussels and aside from the usual St. Patrick’s Day parade, there are several activities for the whole family. There will be traditional Irish games like camogie (a game involving a ball and a stick), soccer and Gaelic football, arts and crafts and musical acts at Parc du Cinquantenaire. One of the most awaited by the locals is the dressing of the famous statue of Brussels, the Manneken Pis. The statue typically wears Irish tartan on event day.
The city of Tokyo is not able to resist the Irish charm and even celebrates St. Patrick's Day for two days. The annual parade takes place on March 17 on Omotesando Street, featuring colorful floats, marching bands and parade participants in colorful costumes. The celebration in Japan is called I Love Ireland and Yoyogi Park becomes the venue for the biggest Irish-related celebration in Asia.
Cape Town, South Africa
If you are familiar with South Africa's Table Mountain, you'll recall that most of its photographs show a granite-colored mountain. But on St. Patrick's Day, Table Mountain, like other icons around the world, will be bathed in green light.
Munich closes Leopoldstrasse (Leopold Street) to give way to the annual St Patrick’s Day parade. Once the parade reaches Odeonsplatz, participants and spectators are treated to a party where they can see Irish dance and music acts performing. The city's Allianz Arena will take on a very stunning emerald green hue. Munich usually celebrates the festival over the weekend, but this year (2019), the city decides to celebrate the event from March 15-17, ending with an international street food festival.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
It is typical for South Americans to celebrate festivals fiesta-style. For their version of the St. Patrick Day celebration, they turn the district of Retiro's Avenida de Mayo into a huge street party venue that runs for 10 blocks. Buenos Aires has a very large Irish population, so expect Irish-style merriment mixed with the exuberant spirit of the people of Buenos Aires. There will be folk dancing, live music, drink and food stalls and even a contest for best-dressed fairies and leprechauns.
Since 1824 the city of Montreal has not failed in holding a St. Patrick Day celebration. The parade includes floats, bagpipes, marching bands and local residents. Joining the parade is a huge statue of Saint Patrick.
The Singapore River, like the Chicago River and the Vilnia River is dyed green for the occasion. The St. Patrick Day celebration in Singapore is considered the largest in South East Asia were participants all wear costumes in orange and green. The colorful parade is usually led by a motorcycle convoy around the city's major road arteries. An annual ball with live Irish music and dancing, along with typical Irish fares as well as brews, is hosted by the St. Patrick’s Society of Singapore.
Several more cities join the celebration of St. Patrick's Day around the world, so you can expect to see different activities and plenty of green where there are Irish communities.
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