St Patrick’s Day is a huge celebration around the world. Ankita Mamgain tells you where to head to paint the town green.
When you think of St Patrick’s Day, there are a few things that instantly come to mind: the colour green, a gloriously dark beverage that we are forbidden to name and tiny leprechauns. One of the most celebrated cultural festivals worldwide; this pure Irish tradition, which started in Dublin, has certainly conquered the world and many famous landmarks turn green on the day to commemorate Ireland’s patron saint every year. March 17 marks the day Irish descendants – and everyone else, for that matter – celebrate all that good old St Patrick represents. Whether it be drinking green ale (or something else that starts with ‘g’) or wearing tall leprechaun hats and yelling the official slogan of the parade – “Kiss me, I’m Irish!” – this is one occasion when, no matter whether left of centre or right, everyone agrees, green is good.
So while the Emerald Isle would be an excellent choice if you want to be part of the celebrations, there are certain cities elsewhere that have taken St Paddy’s festivities to a whole new level.
At one point, the Irish Australian population outweighed the Australian population in Sydney, so it’s no surprise that it takes St Patrick’s Day celebrations very seriously. The sun-kissed city revels in a sea of green and hosts a massive parade that, according to some reports, is ranked fourth biggest in the world
The Sydney Opera House also participates and shines bright green upon nightfall. We all know how proud the Australians are of their staple brews, but this is one time good old Irish stuff flows endlessly through the taps. Pop into any local watering hole and enjoy a pint of happiness.
Once the hangover wears off, and it might take some time, hit the city’s legendary beaches. There are several beaches near Bondi that are just as beautiful, including Tamarama, Bronte and Coogee. Then, of course, take the customary pictures in front of the Opera House, go up the Harbour Bridge, camp on Cockatoo Island and take time out to indulge in the many gastronomic gems of this wonderful city.
You probably didn’t see this one coming but Japan is one of the major destinations to celebrate this Irish tradition. In the city of Ise, the Japanese and Irish flags fly side-by-side as hundreds of people gather at the Ise Shrine to participate in the day’s activities. A non-profit organisation called Irish Network Japan is in charge of facilitating all events in what is considered to be Asia’s largest St Patrick’s Day parade.
Japanese residents flood the streets, performing jigs and playing bagpipes while dressed like leprechauns. Celebrations also include an Irish music dedication concert, which takes place at the Ise Shrine pond, where you can catch live performances by violinists, cellists and fiddlers.
After the party, try the confectionary at the 300-year-old sweet shop, Akafuku Mochi, the signs of which you’ll see everywhere in Ise-Shima. When not visiting the Shinto shrines, you can take a fishing trip or have a beach barbecue and explore the many wonders of this quaint seaside town.
You can catch the parade in Tokyo as well which features more than 1,500 participants and 50,000 visitors who show up for this event, which is sponsored by the Irish Embassy.
New York and Boston might be close contenders when it comes to the scale of their St Paddy’s celebrations, but what beats them fair and square is the mega carnival that Chicago stages. The Saturday before St Patrick’s Day, spectators from all over the country gather in the Windy City to watch the annual Chicago River dyeing. After the river turns a bright green, a parade commences that includes colourful floats, Irish step dancers and marching bands of bagpipers. Every year an average over 400,000 people attend the festival, creating a sea of green bodies to match the river.
After the parade, there is a ceremony in which ‘The Parade Queen’ is named and there’s cabbage and corned beef dinner for everyone to enjoy. The Irish American Heritage Centre of Chicago also hosts an event that features contemporary Irish music and dancing.
One of the largest cities in the United States, Chicago’s urban landscape, arty nooks, heritage buildings and a bustling eating-out and nightlife scene provide a long must-see-and-do list.