From dying your landmarks green, to dressing as a leprechaun, St Patrick’s Day, on 17th March, is an excuse for a party the world over.
Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
- The annual New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade is the granddaddy of all St. Patrick’s Day parades. It’s the largest in the world, lasts for 6 hours and sees over two million spectators turn out each year. There are no cars or floats allowed at this pedestrian-powered procession, which sees 150,000 participants take part.
- The U.S city of Chicago celebrates St. Patrick’s Day on a grand scale by dying the Chicago River a brilliant shade of green for the day.
According to the Chicago St Pats Day parade website, “In 1961 Stephen Bailey [friend of the mayor of Chicago] was approached by a plumber who was wearing some white coveralls… These coveralls had been mostly stained or dyed a perfect shade of green, an Irish green to better describe it. It was when Stephen Bailey asked how the coveralls got this way, that they discovered that the dye used to detect leaks into the river turned green, not just any color green, but the perfect emerald green.”
The annual tradition, which sees 45 pounds of vegetable dye thrown overboard has happened annually for over 40 years, organised every year by the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers, and overseen by thousands of spectators.
Other cities have tried to dye their rivers green, but none with as much success as Chicago. Windy City residents put this down to the components of the emerald-coloured dye, which, like the secret recipe for Coca Cola, is a closely guarded secret. Visitors to the celebrations are assured the ingredients are thoroughly-tested and non-toxic to the river life however.
3. It wouldn’t be a proper St Patrick’s Day celebration without a pint of Guinness. An expected 7.5m pints of the black stuff are sold on the day – twice that of a normal day. And if you’re lucky enough to be called Patrick, Patricia, Patricio or any one of the many variants of the name Patrick, you’ll be able to receive free admission to the Guinness Storehouse’s own St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Dublin on March 17th this year!
Count yourself lucky if you can get a pint of Guinness anywhere in Ireland on the day though. Until the 1970s, all pubs were closed in Ireland on St Patrick’s Day out of respect for the religious feast day, and for fear that people would ‘break lent’. The only place you were allowed to drown the shamrock in pre-1970s Ireland, was the annual Royal Dublin Dog Show.
4. Nothing says St. Patrick’s Day, like turning your landmarks green. Places that have turned green around the world in honour of St Patrick include the Pyramids of Giza, Table Mountain, the Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil, the leaning tower of Pisa, the London Eye, the Sydney Opera House, and Al Arab in Dubai.
5. St. Patrick’s Day must be one of the widest celebrated patron saints days in the world, with hibernophiles (someone fond of Irish culture, language and Ireland in general… there’s a new word for you) joining in March 17th celebrations in far flung places all over the globe. Japan plays host to Asia’s largest St Patrick’s Day parade. In Buenos Aires, much of the city is closed off to allow for St Patrick’s Day celebrations. In Moscow, a St Patrick’s Day parade is held, drawing thousands of people, as does the one in Sydney. A Guinness-fueled fiesta in Cabo Roig, Spain, sees flamenco dancers tap alongside Irish dancers, and in Lithuania, the Vilnele river in Vilnius, gets turned green in a smaller version of the Chicago tradition. Since 1961, St Patrick has been regarded as the patron saint of Nigeria too. It has the largest Guinness stout market in the world, accounting for around a fifth of Guinness’ global sales.
6. The tiny island of Montserrat in the West Indies is known as the ‘Emerald Isle of the Caribbean’ with St Patrick’s Day being an official public holiday. Founded by fleeing Irish servants who wanted to escape religious persecution from neighbouring islands in the 1600s, Shamrock passport stamps pay tribute to Montserrat’s Hibernian roots. Cue a whole week of calypso-Irish festivities which also commemorates an attempted slave revolt on March 17, 1768.
7. Wearing green on 17th March is a tradition which stretches back to the 17th century, although it is worth noting that blue, not green, was the colour originally associated with St Patrick with ‘St Patrick’s Blue’ being used on Ireland’s Presidential Standard. According to legend, people wear green to makes themselves invisible to leprechauns, who would pinch anyone they could see. In America, it is tradition to pinch anyone who isn’t wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day. However for leprechaun unbelievers, the explanation centres on green being a symbol of sympathy with Irish independence.
Enjoy your St Patrick’s Day celebrations, however you choose to celebrate it!