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Everyone is at least a little bit Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, which might at least partially explain why so many extravagant St. Patrick’s Day celebrations can be found around the world every year. In fact, it’s the one national holiday that’s celebrated in more countries than any other. Not only will you find some of the biggest and best events in Ireland, but throughout the U.S. and other cities across the globe that host festivals, parades, Irish dancing and music.
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Chicago is famous for hosting one of the most impressive St. Paddy’s Day celebrations in not only America, but the entire world. Each year, the Chicago River is dyed a vibrant shade of emerald green just for the holiday. The tradition that’s more than six decades old has become one of the biggest and best spectator events for all ages. On the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day, March 12 in 2016, viewers can watch as a little “leprechaun magic” is poured into the river, first turning it orange, just before it develops its brilliant emerald hue that looks just like the lush hills of Ireland. The parade begins at noon, marching from Balbo Drive to Monroe Drive, and features lots of elaborate floats, bands, bagpipers, Irish step dancers and much more.
There’s no better place to be on St. Patrick’s Day then Ireland. If you’re lucky enough to be there for the holiday, the capital city of Dublin puts on a huge four-day festival that will take place from March 17 through March 20 in 2016. The main event is the parade, held on the holiday, featuring all types of fantastical creations and thrilling performances including local and national bands, bands from the U.S. and Brittany, that will wind their way through the heart of Dublin city. The Irish Craft Beer & Whiskey Village will be open throughout the festival, showcasing great beer, whiskey, artisan food and entertainment, including live music.
This tiny island in the Caribbean is the only nation other than Ireland in the world that celebrates St. Patrick’s Day as a public holiday, but it’s for reasons that are different than what you probably think. In this hilly, British territory that was settled by Irish pioneers, people mix their annual festivities with shamrocks, green beer and memories of an aborted slave revolt against Irish planters in 1768. Locals celebrate the rise of the slave freedom fighters as well as the Irish Catholic element in their country’s history. March 17th is celebrated with a week-long festival of independence, with the main event as the Masquerade, in which Montserratians dress in colorful hats that resemble bishops’ miters. They also dance Irish jigs and crack whips in mock defiance of their one-time masters. Irish sing-alongs and historical lectures are common on the holiday as well.
Tokyo has been hosting the largest of several St. Patrick’s Day parades that take place throughout Japan in recent years. It was started by Irish Network Japan in order to introduce Ireland to the Japanese people, and has evolved into a fabulous mix of traditional Japanese-style dress with Irish costumes. Dignitaries from many different countries have participated over the years, including the deputy prime minister of Ireland Mary Hearney in 2001. It’s cheered on by as many as 30,000 spectators and there are also an increasing number of Irish pubs that send over attractive women known as the “voucher girls” to the parade to pass out free beer. The city’s Omotesando shopping district is draped in tricolor flags, a cast of floats, Irish dancers, leprechauns, Irish setters and wolfhounds, all entertain the crowds.
San Francisco, California
San Francisco was the new home for many Irish immigrants, particularly during the gold rush, with the influx of all the 49ers who were seeking the treasure. The city’s St. Patricks’ Day paradise has been taking place ever since, with 2016 celebrating its 165th annual parade and festival. It attracts over 100,000 visitors, with thousands joining in to honor Irish culture. It includes plenty of Irish singing and dancing as well as traditional Irish poetry, dance troupes, cultural groups, San Francisco Fire and Police, and more than 100 colorful floats and marching bands. This year, the parade will kick off at the corner of Market and 2nd Street at 11:30 pm on Saturday, March 12, running to the Civic Center. If you want to continue the party afterwards, you’ll find many great Irish pubs to do it in, like The Plough and Stars in the Richmond District.
Believe it or not, even Russia celebrates the Irish holiday. Its parade started in 1992 and has continued to grow, with thousands of Muscovites congregating on Novy Arbat, the main drag where it all began, every year. It features marching bands and Cossack horsemen, while local bars contribute their own floats and Muscovites showcase their Irish wolfhounds, which are almost as big as the floats themselves. The Moscow city government, Moscow police and various government entities as well as the Irish embassy and the Irish community in the city all come together to make it happen.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires looks more like Dublin than the “Paris of South America” on March 17th. The capital city hosts the biggest St. Patrick’s Day celebration in South America. Not only does it put on a spectacular parade, it hosts an annual street party in the city center with lots of music and dancing, including Irish-flavored rock groups like The Kilt and Tartan Army, and Celtic Argentina, one of the largest Irish dance schools in South America and the largest in Argentina. The parade features elves, fairies and Irish dancers, and the party continues afterward in local pubs like The Kilkenny and Druid Inn.
A huge celebration for St. Patrick’s Day is held in the heart of central London, bringing together the best of Irish culture and a full program of entertainment in Trafalgar Square. It also hosts a colorful parade, which will be held on March 13 in 2016, leaving Piccadilly at noon, passing many iconic London landmarks while it winds its way to the square. Now in its 15th year, it attracts more than 150,000 and showcases the best of Irish song, dance, music, culture and arts, including London Irish sports clubs, dance schools, marching bands and pageantry. Other attractions throughout the day include an artisan Irish food market, ceilidhs, comedy and film festivals as well as a variety of children’s activities.
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Toronto has been putting on one of the biggest and wildest St. Patrick’s Day Parades in North America, and the world, for more than 150 years now. The approximately 90-minute parade kicks off at noon and attracts over a half-million spectators, with the procession starting from Bloor and St. George, continuing along Bloor Street down Yonge, and finishing up on Queen Street at Nathan Philips Square. Afterward, you can continue the celebration at many of the city’s bars, restaurants and other venues, with many hosting special events for the holiday. Some of the best places for a green beer- or Guinness-filled night includes the Watermark Irish Pub & Restaurant, with its prime waterfront spot offering amazing views, as well as McVeigh’s, the quintessential Irish bar that’s been in the same location at Church and Richmond for nearly 50 years.
The nation’s capital does it up big for St. Patrick’s Day, with its celebration, ShamrockFest, called the “Coachella of St. Patrick’s Day.” The event hosts over 50 Irish bands, DJs, dancers and other performers across five stages, along with plenty of beer, food, contests, carnival rides and an Irish village. A two-and-a-half-hour themed parade, which will be held on Sunday, March 13 in 2016, starting at noon, marches down Constitution Avenue, showcasing beautiful floats, dancers, marching and pipe bands, military units and more. Afterwards, local Irish pubs will sponsor parade parties featuring Irish musicians, dancers and singers, along with lots of Guinness and dishes like shepherd’s pie.
New York City, New York
Held on March 17, New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade is the oldest and largest in the world, with an estimated two million attending each year. Established in 1762 by Irish soldiers in the British army, it showcases over 150,000 marchers, including firefighters, military and police groups, bands, social and cultural clubs, county associations and performers who parade down Fifth Avenue for up to five hours in honor of Saint Patrick. If you’d like to watch in person, you’ll need to arrive at dawn to get a good spot, or plan on standing for a very long time. For those that just want to enjoy the big, citywide party, just head to the bars in the 50s along 2nd Avenue, and you can take part in the celebration that goes late into the next morning.
The “Emerald City,” as it’s often called, celebrates the day in grand style, with an estimated 20,000 people attending. In 2016, the Seattle St. Patrick’s Day Festival and parade takes place over March 12 and 13 at Seattle Center. The festival includes live performances, hands-on activities, visual arts, foods, games and a marketplace. Of course, there are lots of Irish tunes, step dance and the Irish jig to help make things lively too, along with booths selling Irish products, children’s contests and activities. Workshops on genealogy and the Irish language as well as cultural exhibits are featured too. The parade starts at 12:30pm on the 12th, from 4th Avenue at Jefferson in downtown Seattle and travels to Westlake Park, ending officially at the Seattle Center.
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Montreal hosts the oldest St. Patrick’s Day parade in Canada. This year marks its 193rd annual parade, which will start at noon on Sunday, March 20, at the corner of Fort and Ste. Catherine, and will proceed along the main thoroughfare, concluding at the corner of Phillips Square and Ste. Catherine. The Grand Marshal leads the three-hour procession of floats, bands, community and cultural groups. The day has been celebrated in Montreal as far back as 1759, after the Conquest, by Irish soldiers of the Montreal Garrison, who enjoyed special dinners and religious services. The city’s pubs and restaurants typically feature a special St. Patrick’s Day menu and all sorts of events. Hurley’s Irish pub usually serves an Irish breakfast to start your morning out right, complete with Irish coffee, soda bread, sausages, mashed potatoes and other Irish delights.
Auckland, New Zealand
Auckland, the farthest celebration away from Ireland, some 11,300 miles from Dublin, really goes green for the holiday, not only is its 1,076-foot Sky Tower lit with the Irish hue all day, it hosts at big parade which will be held on Sunday, March 13 this year, starting at noon. This hallmark events features entertainers in orange and green with Irish banners, floats, dancers and bands. The Irish Society also holds a Fair Day with all-day activities, including food stalls, a bar, kids’ rides, face painting, Gaelic football, Irish music and dancing. “The Greening,” is yet another event, featuring an evening of drinks and canapes on March 16, with entertainment provided by Sean Kelly.
There are more Irish pubs in Boston than any other city in the U.S., and not surprisingly the city with a long-standing Irish tradition hosts one of the country’s biggest St. Patrick’s Day parades, drawing more than 600,000 to Boston for the event. As St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Thursday this year, the city will host events leading up to and during the holiday week. The main event is South Boston’s parade, which will kick off on Sunday, March 20 from the MBTA station on West Broadway and end at Andrew Square. The two-and-a-half-hour parade features floats as well as dozens of marching bands and pipe bands from Ireland and across America. Boston’s own Irish-punk group, Dropkick Murphys will be featured at the House of Blues over four nights: March 16, 17, 18 and 19, and, of course, you’re sure to find countless Irish pubs hosting live music as well as special menus and other events.
Munich hosts the biggest St. Patrick’s Day parade in Europe outside of Ireland. It began as a small celebration two decades ago by Irish expats, but today, the parade draws 15,000 participants and spectators, and has grown to a full three-day weekend of events, preceding the official holiday on March 17. Ever Irish bar throughout the city will be packed with people drinking Guinness, and on Saturday, March 12, the Celtic Rock Spectacle with host three live bands. Sunday is the Night of the Celts, featuring music and dance from Ireland, Scotland and Galicia, while Monday brings the parade. The procession, which stars at 3 pm, includes Irish bands and dance groups, sport and Irish interest groups that will march from the Deutsche Museum and end up on the Kultfabrik grounds. An After-Parade Party will feature live Irish bands, marching bands and children’s entertainment.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Strongly influenced by Mardi Gras, New Orleans puts on a parade unlike most others. It features floats, jazz bands and colorful costumed characters, and the float riders throw spectators cabbages, potatoes and strings of beads. This city definitely knows how to throw a party, and as it claims to be the largest port of entry for Irish immigrants in the southern U.S., it puts on one of the biggest celebrations for the holiday you’ll find, and has done so for over two centuries now. After the parade, crowds file into their favorite watering holes like O’Flaherty’s Pub, Parasols and Ryan’s Irish Pub in the French Quarter. Expect plenty of live music and perhaps a good Irish stew – after all, they’ve got to do something with all of those ingredients that are heaved at parade-goers.
Savannah hosts one of the oldest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the U.S., dating all the way back to 1825. Unlike many other cities, the parade takes place on the actual holiday, even if it falls on a weekday. The procession traces a route through downtown, around the lush parks and dyed-green fountains, while the weekend nearest the holiday features Savannah’s biggest party of the year, the St. Patrick’s Celebration on the River. It includes non-stop live entertainment, games, food and beverages on Historic River Street that’s reminiscent of Mardi Gras on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. As there is no open container law, there tends to be quite a lot of alcohol throughout the area.