How is St. Patrick’s Day celebrated across the world?
St. Patrick’s Day, on March 17th, has been celebrated in Ireland since as far back as the ninth century and has now come to symbolize a celebration of Irishness across the world. To mark this, we’re going to look at how St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated both in Ireland and abroad.
We’ve picked countries where many of our Oxford offices are located – so hopefully you’ve experienced St. Patrick’s Day in some of these places!
To mark St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, Lent-related restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol are typically eased. This is perhaps why drinking alcohol has become such an integral part of the festivities, festivities which also include dancing (céilí) and Gaelic folk music.
Most people know that wearing a shamrock is common on St. Patrick’s Day, but many don’t know why. The shamrock was believed by the ancient Celts to be a holy plant that symbolized spring and rebirth. It’s also believed that St. Patrick used the shamrock with its three leaves to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish, thus converting them to Christianity.
The drowning of the shamrock is a tradition by which the shamrock is dropped into a glass of whiskey, the owner of the beverage then makes a toast, downs the drink, and throws the shamrock over their left shoulder for luck.
It may surprise a lot of people to know that many of the celebrations we associate with St. Patrick’s Day aren’t from Ireland at all but originated among Irish emigrants to the US. This is the case for St. Patrick’s Day parades, which began in North America and moved to Ireland in the 20th century. In fact, the first ever St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in St. Augustine, Florida in 1601. Today, parades are held across the US, with the biggest and oldest taking place in New York and dating back to 1762. Another city with notable St. Patrick’s Day celebrations is Boston, well known for having a large population of Irish descent and claiming the earliest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in North America, dating back to 1737.
A St. Patrick’s Day dish which has its origins in the United States is corned beef and cabbage. Bacon and cabbage is a traditional Irish dish, however in the 19th century, Irish immigrants to the US started substituting bacon for corned beef – they both sound delicious, however, so we’re sure you’ll enjoy whichever you try this St. Patrick’s Day.
Canada was another popular destination for Irish emigrants, so it also has its fair share of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. In fact, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador is one of the few places outside Ireland to have March 17th as a public holiday.
Montreal, whose flag even contains the shamrock, has one of the oldest and largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in North America. Its parade has been held since 1824, however St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the city date back to 1759, when Irish soldiers stationed there commemorated the patron saint of their homeland.
Other cities across Canada with notable St. Patrick’s Day celebrations include Toronto, which has held a parade since at least 1863, and Vancouver, whose CelticFest started in 2004.
As Ireland’s closest neighbour, the UK has a large Irish population, with 320,000 Irish citizens living in the UK as of 2019. Along with the usual drinking and revelry, St. Patrick’s Day is marked by the British Royal family presenting bowls of shamrocks to the Irish Guards, a regiment of the British Army. London also boasts its own St. Patrick’s Day parade, which has been held since 2002.
This is just a small sample of the many places across the world which celebrate Irish culture every March 17th, wherever you are, we hope you’re able to celebrate and we wish you a very happy St. Patrick’s Day!