It’s this time of the year again! On Thursday 17th March, Ireland is celebrating its national bank holiday – Saint Patrick’s Day. Saying that Ireland’s national day is popular at home would be a euphemism, however “Paddy’s Day”, as they call it, is known and celebrated all over the world.
A Short Historical Background
We all know what St Patrick’s Day is, but who Patrick is and what he is famous for remains obscure to a lot of people. Patrick was canonized for spreading Catholicism in Ireland. His call started in the 430s and he preached until his death on 17th March 461, date retained for the celebration.
Legend has it that Patrick used shamrocks to explain the concept of the Trinity to pagans. Whether it is true or not was never confirmed, however the shamrock went through the centuries as a symbol of the Irish culture.
While we all associate St Patrick with the colour green, it was originally blue. This shift of colour started in the 17th century by wearing green clothes and items, possibly because of the legend of the shamrock. The celebration of Patrick’s Day started then, although no set date was established at the time. It officially became a public holiday in 1903.
An Irish Day, a Worldwide Party
17th March is a very important day in Ireland, but almost the whole world heeds the party call. Paddy’s Day is celebrated in most English speaking countries, such as Great Britain, Canada, the United States, Australia or New Zealand but also in Argentina and even Japan.
If you are unlucky enough to live in a country where no party is given on that day, here is what to expect:
Parades are the climaxes of the day in most cities. They could involve anything and everything, but generally music, dances, shows and floats.
Street performances are rampant – stand-up comedians, musicians, singers, bands, shows. Set your expectations high for you will see people doing a lot of unexpected things.
Wearing green is the bare minimum. Not respecting this tradition could bring you into some trouble! Some will just wear a green t-shirt, some will make a tribute to the day out of their whole bodies. Costumes, wigs and make-up are not unusual either!
Irish flags can be seen everywhere, as well as many accessories coloured green, white and orange.
Eventually you will have to go partying, although the whole day is arguably a party in itself!
Beer. A lot, everywhere and at any time. Irish-brewed stout beer Guinness is of course a favourite.
Some cities will go further with the “greenisation” of the setting. Seattle, Washington, has green road surface markings for the occasion. Chicago, Illinois, dyes the river green every year since 1962. Several cities do the same with fountains.
This year, Dublin extends the festivities between Wednesday 16th March and Sunday 20th March 2011. Don’t miss out on the funniest week of the year!