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March 17th is now one of the most popular holidays in the world. Thanks to migration and globalization, St. Patrick’s Day, which originated in Ireland, spread across the world as a celebration of the Irish spirit –both secular and religious. In fact, more nations around the world celebrate this holiday than any other national holiday.
According to legend, St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, converted several kingdoms to Christianity and used the shamrock’s three leaves to explain the Holy Trinity. Today, though, St. Patrick and its celebration is more associated with leprechauns, green beer, and orange beards than its religious roots.
While Dublin, the capital of St. Patrick’s Day, might boast the most impressive celebration, there are several other cities where you can have an equally fantastic green and orange holiday.
Home to one of the largest Irish communities in the world, Boston surely lives up to its Irish root by throwing one of the biggest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations outside of Ireland. More than half a million people attend the festivities that include a three-mile-long parade with floats, Irish bands, bagpipers, dancers, colorful characters, and more. While Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade officially began in 1901, the celebration dates back to the 18th century, when colonists of Irish descent staged the first modest parade in 1737.
The Windy City is known for throwing one of the most visually impressive St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the U.S. To mark the occasion, the city turns its river emerald green – a sight quite surreal when you see it for the first time. If you want to watch the dying of the river, it’s best to go there early in the morning, around 9:00 am, as it always gathers a big crowd. The parade follows, going from Balbo Drive to Monroe Drive; and as expected, it is full of floats, dancers, bagpipes, and more.
San Francisco, California
San Francisco is also home to a relatively large Irish population that came during the Gold Rush. The St. Patrick’s Day parade has been celebrated here for over 160 years now, attracting more than 100,000 spectators in recent years. The traditional parade starts at the corner of Second and Market, and ends at City Hall.
Surprisingly, Savannah has one of the largest St. Patrick’s parades in the U.S. With warm weather and a beautiful setting, over 500,000 spectators flock to the southern city to witness the three-hour parade that takes place in the Historic Park District – where all the fountains have been dyed green for the occasion. In fact, Savannah doesn’t only celebrate the holiday on the day; they start their celebrations at the beginning of March, including a 5K Shamrock Run, heritage festivals, and a few Irish pub-crawls.
New York City, New York
The Big Apple loves to do everything bigger and bolder, so it’s no surprise it hosts the largest St. Patrick’s Parade in the world - as well as one of the oldest. The parade was first introduced by Irish soldiers in the British Army in 1762, and today showcases more than 300,000 marchers and performers – drawing a crowd of over three million people each year. The six-hour long Parade begins at 44th Street and runs up 5th Avenue, passing St. Patrick’s Cathedral and ends on 86th street. After that, it is tradition to follow with a pub crawl, visiting many of New York’s famous Irish pubs.
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans claims to be the largest port of entry for Irish immigrants in the southern U.S., and to celebrate this, the city has thrown a weeklong celebration for St. Patrick’s Day since 1809. During that week constant parades, block parties, traditional food markets, and Irish music fill the streets of the Big Easy. And of course, it wouldn’t be a proper New Orleans party without people tossing beads and flowers from balconies to the crowds on the street.
There are thousands of Irish expats in London, so it is natural they hold quite an impressive St. Patrick’s Day celebration each year. From Irish film screenings to history trails, festivals at Trafalgar Square, and the traditional 1.5-mile-long parade, London has something for everyone. And of course, we can’t forget the thousands of Irish drinking a pint at many of the city’s Irish pubs.
Australia might be far away on the map, but they still celebrate St. Patrick’s Day like any other nation. Sydney throws a huge themed parade (dating back more than 200 years) on the Sunday before St. Patrick’s Day. There is also pre- and post- parade entertainment along the streets of Sydney and Prince Alfred Park, which hosts a Green Gathering with Irish beverages, local crafts, Irish dancers, and marching bands.
This small island in the British West Indies is the only country other than Ireland where the day is an official public holiday thanks to the island’s sizeable Irish population – which also helped it earn the nickname, “The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean.” Different from most St. Patrick’s celebrations, Monserrat infuses traditional Irish customs with African Caribbean heritage. You can celebrate the day by drinking a green Heineken while dancing calypso, or watch the parade with Afro beats while wearing the traditional green color. Also, to commemorate the week of festivities, visitors are greeted with a unique shamrock passport stamp.
Of course, we can’t leave Dublin off of the list. If you go to the capital of St. Patrick’s Day, you should be ready to wear a lot of green, dye your beard or hair orange, and drink a lot of green beer. As the home of the saint, celebrations here are more traditional, but there’s a good mix of religious and secular events. Expect lots of live Irish music and traditional feasts in pubs
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