Lá Fhéile Pádraig, or: Why the Chicago River is Bright Green today

800px-Chicago_River_(4854192144)Crowds of people dressed up all in green and stereotypical Irish attire, dancing and celebrating, and drinking massive amounts of green-coloured beer – that’s St. Patrick’s Day, right?

Well that’s what it may look like at first sight. But what is the history behind this celebration? And are the celebrations really just plain drinking-events?

St. Patrick’s Day (‘Lá Fhéile Pádraig’ in Irish) is a traditional Irish holiday which dates back to the early 17th century. It celebrates the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick, who is considered to have been the first Christian missionary in Ireland. In that sense, St. Patrick’s Day celebrates the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. St. Patrick died on the 17th of March in 461 AD, which is why the celebrations are held on the 17th of March each year.

Obviously, there is much more to the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day than wearing green and drinking. Depending on where you go for the celebrations, you can enjoy huge, beautiful parades that are the fruit of long and elaborate planning and preparations. Surprisingly, the biggest parades and parties do not take place in Ireland, but in the United States. Being the home of many descendants of Irish settlers, many cities like Chicago, New York City and Boston host huge festivities which attract thousands of spectators each year. In Chicago, an integral part of the celebrations is the Chicago River – it is dyed emerald green for the occasion!

If you are up for a more traditional and historically linked parade, you might still prefer going to Dublin: The parade in the Irish capital will offer a big thematic journey for the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, exploring the past, the present and the future of Ireland respectively in the three succeeding years 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Now get yourself in the mood and enjoy some traditional Irish music and dancing!


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