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St. Patrick's Day Traditions & Events

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Posted 14/03/2019

St. Patrick’s Day
Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and his feast day is celebrated on the 17th March every year. Saint Patrick’s day is a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. It is also a holiday in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Caribbean territory Montserrat due to Ireland’s close ties to these regions.

Saint Patrick’s Day Today
Saint Patrick’s day is one of the biggest events of the year in Ireland. The St. Patrick’s Festival takes place for five days every year in Dublin city centre. This year the event takes place from the 14th to the 18th March and will welcome over 1 million people to the streets of the city centre.

Saint Patrick’s Day is the one national holiday celebrated in more countries around the world than any other. It is most definitely a day when everybody wants to be Irish.
There is a whole host of events taking place over the weekend. With traditional Irish singing and dancing sessions, walking tours, light shows and even a pop-up Gaeltacht.
The Festival is a great celebration of wonderful Irish traditions mixing with the modern culture of 21st Century Ireland.

The Saint Patrick’s Day Parade will take place on Sunday this year. The theme of the parade is Storytelling. Street theatre groups, pageant companies and marching bands will take to the streets of Dublin to charm what is expected to be a record number of attendees in 2019. The atmosphere will be drummed up with bands from the United States of America, Germany and of course Ireland.

The Parade will take it’s usual route starting at Parnell Square, heading across O’Connell Bridge before finishing up just past St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Cuffe Street. To fit in with this year’s storytelling theme, Irish comedians Deirdre O’Kane and Jason Byrne have been selected as this year’s Grand Marshalls.

The History of St. Patrick
Saint Patrick was born in Roman-Britain in the 5th Century, believed to be somewhere in modern-day Wales. At the age of 16, he was kidnapped and taken to Ireland to work as a slave. In the Declaration, allegedly written by Patrick, it is said that he spent the following six years working as a shepherd. It was during this time that he ‘found God’.
According to the Declaration, God told Patrick to head for the Irish coast where a boat would be waiting to bring him back home to safety. Back at home, Patrick became a priest.

He would then go on to return to Ireland to convert the pagans to Christianity and legend goes that he drove the ‘snakes’ out of Ireland.
According to tradition, Saint Patrick died on the 17th March in Downpatrick and that is why we celebrate the life of Ireland’s Patron Saint on that day every year.
 
St. Patrick’s Day Traditions
St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated around the world with some of the largest events taking place outside Ireland. Some examples of St. Patrick’s Day traditions and events are outlined below.

Parades
Almost every town and village in Ireland has its own St. Patrick’s Day parade. It is common for local clubs, societies, schools and business to arrange floats for the annual parade in their hometown.

As mentioned already, the largest parade takes place in the capital, Dublin. Approximately 500,000 people attended the parade in 2018.
There are parades held across the world too, with some of the largest coming in North America.  One of the largest parades outside Ireland is in Montreal. They have been running St. Patrick’s Day parades since 1824. Theirs is also a weeklong festival in St. John, New Brunswick to celebrate St. Patrick.

Elsewhere, New York and Chicago are known for their lively parades. New York’s edition runs down the famous 5th Avenue with almost 150,000 people taking part in the parade every year. Another city with close links to Ireland, Chicago, colours it famous Chicago River green every year to mark St. Patrick’s Day.

The White House
It has been tradition since 1956 that a member of the Irish government visits the White House on St. Patrick’s Day to present a Waterford Crystal bowl of shamrock to the President.  Every Taoiseach since 1990 has visited the White House and this year Leo Varadkar will meet Donald Trump for the annual gift giving.

It has also become tradition for a relaxed evening event to be hosted by the President in the White House for a number of Irish travelling delegates.
A number of other Irish ministers travel abroad on St. Patrick’s day to experience the festivities and meet with foreign leaders.

Global Greening
2019 marks the tenth year of Tourism Ireland’s Global Greening campaign. Landmarks around the world are lit up green to mark St. Patrick’s Day. The campaign has been a monumental success with nearly 500 landmarks going green in over 50 countries. Most notably, we have seen the likes of the Colosseum in Rome, the leaning tower of Pisa, the Great Wall of China, the Sydney Opera House and the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro have all gone emerald for the day.

Shamrock
According to legend, St. Patrick used a three-leaf shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to pagans and the sprig still holds tradition on St. Patrick’s day. As already mentioned, the President of the United States has been presented with a bowl of Shamrock every year since 1954.

In Ireland, men and women will wear shamrock in their lapels or hats on the day. In times gone by, the shamrock would be removed at the end of the day for the ‘drowning of the shamrock’. The small plant is one of the national symbols of Ireland and is represented on the logo of the national airline Aer Lingus and the crest of the Irish rugby team as well as many other organisations around the world, including the Boston Celtics.

Sporting Events
As it is a bank holiday in Ireland, many sporting events traditionally take place on St. Patrick’s Day. The All-Ireland Senior Club Football and Hurling finals take place in Croke Park on St. Patrick’s Day every year. The provincial schools finals in rugby, gaelic football and hurling are also usually held on the 17th March in grounds around the country. The most storied of these would be Ulster’s MacRory Cup which is broadcast on the BBC and online and played in front of a crowd of thousands.

The final round of the annual 6 Nations tournament usually takes place around St. Patrick’s Day. In 2018, Ireland defeated England on the 17th March to claim their third-ever Grand Slam. This year, they face Wales on the 16th March with a chance to claim another title.

Sporting organisations around the world also celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, particularly in North America. The New York Knicks, Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs along with a whole host of teams have been known to wear special-edition uniforms for the day.

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