Here in Ireland the cabinet is empty of ministers, as they’ve been shipped off to destinations around the world to represent us on St Patrick’s Day, including Korea, Lebanon, Indonesia and the United States. This got us thinking about the different customs which have sprung up around Paddy’s Day over the years. For all our Irish (and not-Irish) followers, here are a few of the cities celebrating this Sunday the 17th:
Our neighbours in the UK can always be relied on for a Paddy’s Day party. In London the parade famously begins at Green Park and gives way to a party in Trafalgar Square. Be prepared to lose your friends and possibly make some new ones in the green-clad flashmob.
Liverpool will stage a parade this year – after all, 50-70% of their population is believed to have some Irish roots – but it’s Birmingham that really rivals the capital, with a festival lasting eight days. Along with the customary parade, they’ll even go the extra mile with a camogie tournament and a concert featuring a band called ‘The Father Teds’ (Tribute comedy act, or genuine singing priests…?).
In Barcelona, an Irish Regatta sees small handmade boats, called Currachs, race through the port of the Catalan capital. Meanwhile in Copenhagen, Carlsberg sponsor a three-legged race to raise money for charity, and at the Hague they are given to Irish flashmobs (watch HERE).
In Seoul, Korea, they’re celebrating with a street party featuring Irish dancing and a Korean U2 tribute band. Japan also marks the day with celebrating in Tokyo and the Ise prefecture, where residents do jigs and dress up as leprechauns.
The American-Irish are credited with making Paddy’s Day what it is today, and this year will feature all the merry-making and madness you’d expect. New York hosts the world’s oldest and largest parade (going since the 1760s!) with bands, firefighters and police groups among a procession down 5th Avenue of over 150,000 people.
Boston is another obvious spot for Irish celebrations- their parade draws up to a million people. Restaurants there frequently sell out of corn beef and cabbage (though we here in Dublin have yet to see anyone actually enjoy eating such stuff…). Meanwhile in Chicago they famously dye the river green every year, a custom which goes back to 1962. Apparently it’s eco-friendly, and attains a shockingly neon hue.
A smaller but no less impressive celebration takes place in Nebraska, where an enormous shamrock painted on the road into the city of O’Neill celebrates its Irish roots. A huge replica Blarney stone is displayed on the street and residents have pioneered the rather off-beat tradition of a public reading of the Dr Seuss children’s book ‘Green Eggs and Ham’.
Australia has always been proud of their Irish heritage and it comes out to play on St Patricks Day, with parades in Sydney, Perth (back after a four-year absence, and sponsored this year by CurrencyFair, and Brisbane, where the Irish Historical Society lead celebrations and dress as gold miners, sugar-cane cutters and other irish figures from the past who helped to build the city.
And finally, two less-known Paddy’s Day traditions:
The island Montserrat, called ‘the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean’, was founded by two Irish refugees, and is one of the only places in the world where St Patrick’s Day is a public holiday. The day is also a key part of the island’s heritage, as it coincides with the slave uprising staged there 1768, which residents mark with a Catholic church service and a traditional feast.
Our final stop-off is back in the US in Portland, Oregon, home to many weird and wonderful traditions. The one in question: a Paddy’s Day celebration centered around the ‘World’s Smallest City Park’, also a reported a colony for leprechauns!!
Writer Dick Fagan created the landmark and its accompanying legend, telling of how he found a leprechaun digging a plot on the very spot. We can’t guarantee you a pot of gold if you go there, but we can recommend the folk music and celebrating which takes place there every year.