Saint Patrick’s Day is a worldwide phenomenon
Saint Patrick’s Day, or Saint Paddy’s Day as it’s often affectionately called, is on March 17th. Unlike others, his is often celebrated over a period of days, especially when it falls on a weekend, and also in many countries and major cities of the world.
Hundreds of countries around the world have saints, and in particular a patron saint. Each patron saint has a special day that is widely celebrated in their country. But how many of these have their day celebrated around the world? None that I can think of; except of course for the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick.
Obviously it’s a big event in Ireland, but why is it so popular worldwide? Well, it’s largely down to emigration. During the famine years of the 19th century in particular some 2 million Irish fled the country and emigrated, mainly to America and the UK, but also to many other countries around the world. Being a forced emigration, many held on to their traditions to help alleviate their homesickness. It was also the time when the Irish fight for independence from Britain was at its most intense. Thus the strong catholic faith was at the heart of this fight, and with Saint Patrick being their national apostle his day became a day for celebrating all things Irish.
Who was Saint Patrick?
There are many accounts of the saint’s life, including books he wrote himself; the most notable being Saint Patrick’s Confessio. It’s rumoured that the saint wasn’t even Irish but was born somewhere in Cumbria, Britain and was captured and enslaved by Irish pirates. He was sold to a chieftain and put to work as a shepherd in County Antrim. During this time he learned all about the Irish language and culture, and all about the pagan religion that he was destined to banish.
When he finally escaped, he went to France and joined the Catholic Church. Eventually he returned to Ireland as a missionary, and was determined to liberate the country from the clutches of the pagan religion and its rulers, the druids. He travelled the length and breadth of the land using the shamrock (a 3 leaf clover) to explain the holy trinity. Thus the shamrock has become Ireland’s national symbol.
His mission and life was heralded a huge success, and it’s probably for this reason that his day is seen as a celebration of freedom.
It started in America
In America the Saint Patrick’s Day celebration was seized upon even more strongly, and the celebrations grew larger and larger every year. Parties and parades exploded in cities like New York and Chicago. Green became the symbol of all things Irish, beer was turned green, along with rivers and other landmarks. People dressed in green and carried shamrocks. Of course everything from America gets exported and the modern day celebrations are largely down to this.
However, the Irish government and tourist board also saw this as an opportunity to promote Ireland from a political and tourism perspective. They have teamed up and every year roll out the Global Greening initiative, in which famous landmarks around the world are coloured green in honour of the national holiday. In 2017 almost 300 landmarks were greened.
Where to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day in 2020
In Dublin, of course
While there will undoubtedly be celebrations all over the country, naturally the nation’s capital is the best place to be. Saint Patrick’s Day Festival runs from 13th to 17th. The great parade starts in Parnell square at 12.00pm on Tuesday 17th. More info here:
Home of the Saint Patrick Day Festival, it was in Armagh that the saint began his mission to convert Ireland to christianity. He established his first large stone church here in 445AD. Today there are two great cathedrals bearing his name. From March 6th to 17th the streets will come alive with a host of celebrations. More info here:
Others in Ireland
Other places around the world
From Piccadilly to Trafalgar Square will be teaming with life as the city also celebrates Saint Patrick’s Day. There’ll be a stream of leprechaun floats, traditional Irish musicians and dancers. Trafalgar Square will be surrounded by an Irish street food market and a tea tent. Many landmarks will be greened, including the London Eye. The main celebrations take place on Sunday 15 March 2020. More info here:
The Big Apple was one of the first to embrace the Saint Patrick’s Day phenomenon and goes all out to make it one of the biggest parties ever. In 2020 the parade starts at 11am on March 17th at 44th Street, marching up Fifth Avenue, past St. Patrick’s Cathedral at 50th Street, all the way to 79th Street. It finishes around 5:00pm at the American Irish Historical Society at East 80th Street. The Empire State building will also be joining the Global Greening initiative.
More info here:
This is a city that really goes all out for the Saint’s day. Along with many landmark places, the Chicago River is once again being dyed green. It’s quite a spectacle, so if you can head over to this fabulous city and celebrate in style. More info here:
The USA’s northern neighbour also makes sure to get in on the act, with parades and celebrations all across in major cities such as Montreal hosting big events. For a truly wonderful spectacle, head down to Niagara Falls where you’ll see the great cascades being lit up green on both the Canadian and USA sides.
Australia and New Zealand
When in Rome! Well you might want to be around this time as the Roman Colosseum will shine green, along with the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Tuscany. If you’re one for drinking, then why not join the Saint Paddy’s Pub Marathon? Started in 2008, it has grown in numbers every year. It starts at the Highlander Pub on Sunday March 17th. Departures are every hour from midday to 5pm. More info here:
How about Slovenia?
In Slovenia for many years now the Ljubljana Castle has been lit up green by the Irish Embassy in Ljubljana. In 2016 the embassy was presented with a problem, as the castle was already being lit up green to commemorate the city’s status of European Green Capital 2016. However, one thing the Irish are very good at is not giving up, so that year the castle alternated between green and then the three colours of the Irish flag: green, white and orange. In 2019 the castle will be lit green again on the night of Wednesday 13th. The best place from which to view and photograph it is Nebotičnik.
Some Slovenian Irish music
The Slovenian Irish music band Noreia often have a Saint Patrick’s Day Tour. Visit their Facebook page for more info.
Make your own the party
Why not head over to Patrick’s Irish Pub in Ljubljana centre, just off Trubarjeva Cesta, for a good pint or two.
All around the World
This is of course just a few of the places in which you can celebrate the saint’s day. The list for 2020 is not out yet (I’ll update here when it is), but for a full list of the global greening initiative for 2019, click here:
Wherever you celebrate, just be sure to wear something green.
My Ireland Book
Read the story of my first ever trip around Ireland in my book, Hot Footing Around the Emerald Isle.
With just a backpack as a home, a guidebook in one hand, a bizarre travelogue in the other and very little money in my bank account, I leave my home and set off to this little country that has always been my neighbour, yet overlooked by myself for many years as I pursued dreams to travel to far and exotic countries. However, I was soon to learn that one of the most beautiful places in the world was right on my doorstep.