It's the time for four leaf clovers, leprechauns, beer, and pots of gold. It’s the season where Guinness flows from the taps and nostalgic songs for the old country are heard across the world. Whether you're young or old, Irish or international, there seems to be something for everyone to enjoy during the 17th of March celebrations. Communities can come together to celebrate a rich heritage, a famous saint... And an excuse to pull a pint before midday!
St. Patrick’s Day is also known as the Feast of St. Patrick in honor of one of the Patron Saints of Ireland. Saint Patrick was a real person, but not much is known about him. He's credited with using the three-leaf clover for explaining the Trinity to Irish pagans (which is why the shamrock is affiliated with the holiday), and while he was originally known for wearing blue, the color green slowly took over as time progressed, probably a reference to Ireland. The country is often known as the 'Emerald Isle' or the 'forty shades of green' in recognition of its lush and highly concentrated vegetation.
Since Saint Patrick’s time, St. Patrick’s Day has expanded outside the Gaelic community. With large-scale Irish emigration and a popularisation of the Irish culture in the media, large, wide-scale celebrations began to take place all over the world on March 17th. Of course it can be argued that the religious significance of the holiday may very well be lost in the drinking and merriment, as these celebrations have become more about Irish culture than the country's Patron Saint. There are numerous celebrations around the world from Sydney, Australia to Tokyo, Japan that definitely deserve mentioning. . Even Cleveland, Ohio had a record-breaking 500,000-attendee number in 2012 for their celebrations. You can also catch St. Patrick's Day celebrations in Dubai, South Korea, and even parts of Africa.
So which cities across the world are the Irish, the ex-pats and the Irish-lovers flocking to this weekend? Here's our guide to the ten largest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations around the world this year.
10 London, England – 100,000 Attendees
Being so close to the holiday's native country, London boasts one of the larger St. Patrick’s Day parades and celebrations featuring attendees who represent all areas of Ireland as well as performances of singing, dancing, and concerts. The famous London Eye even gets decked out in green lighting, showing that the entire city partakes in Irish merriment. The parade this year takes place today, March 16th. The goal behind London’s St. Patrick’s Day festival and parade is to pass on the Irish experience to residents and visitors of London, and to celebrate the many Irish ex-pats living in the city.
9 Vancouver, Canada – 250,000 Attendees
With over 250,000 attendees and 2,000 parade participants, Vancouver’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration, also known as Celtic Fest, will be celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. There will be Irish dancers along the street, musicians playing music, singers, actors, and plenty of green-clad characters to help make Vancouver’s celebration extra special. With distinguished guests and multi-cultural integrations, Vancouver has a very unique way of celebrating the patron saint as they also include a little bit of Scottish culture into their festival.
8 Toronto, Canada – 300,000 Attendees
You could say that Toronto’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are less rowdy and a bit classier. The Friday before the Irish merriment, you can attend the Grand Marshall’s Ball that includes a gourmet sit-down dinner with live entertainment, with tickets averaging $150 a head. And if you don't want to go out to watch the parade or drink, you can head over to the Montgomery Inn for tea, cakes, and more refined deliciousness at $10 per person. Of course, you can still celebrate your St. Paddy’s Day the traditional way at the oldest Irish pub in the city, McVeigh’s.
7 Chicago, Illinois USA – 400,000 Attendees
Over 45 pounds of green vegetable dye goes into the Chicago River for St. Patrick’s Day, which has been a rich tradition since 1962. Over 400,000 people gather in Chicago every year to not only watch the river turn green, but to also partake in Irish festivities that celebrate the culture. The dye only lasts for about 5 hours in the river, but it’s just long enough to eat some Irish food and allow those pints of Guinness to settle nicely in your system.
6 Holyoke, Massachusetts USA – 400,000 Attendees
With a population of only 40,000 and the city spanning about 20 miles, Holyoke becomes the hub for one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day in North America. We can imagine this is a great help to the small town in terms of economic structure! Holyoke also includes a pageant and a 10K race with their celebration along with a parade of over 25,000 marchers. So if you don’t want to go to a large city to celebrate like Boston, Holyoke is just a hop, skip, and a jump away. With true traditional Irish roots in the celebration, Holyoke has become a favorite for Irish-Americans.
5 Montreal, Canada – 600,000 Attendees
Montreal hosts the largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Canada with over 600,000 attendees average each year. The Quebec city has quite a history behind their celebrations that have enabled their festivities to grow the way that they have. The first parade took place in 1824 but celebrations date back to 1759, and continued to grow as the Irish community began to settle in the city in 1817. Celebrations include a royal court, a large parade, mass for the deceased, dinners, and a huge variety of entertainment sure to please the family friendly attendee to the Guinness-drinking partygoer. This year, the big parade is taking place at midday on Sunday.
4 Dublin, Ireland – 675,000 Attendees
Where else can you have the most authentic Irish experience than in the capital city of Ireland? This year, as always, Dublin has a week-long festival for their St. Paddy’s celebration culminating in a grand parade on the day. The festival attracts people from all over the world and performers include dance and theatre troupes, marching bands, artists, and puppet masters. Other entertainment areas include comedy shows, films, and boat races. So if you want to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day for longer than a day or a weekend, head on over to Dublin!
3 Savannah, Georgia USA – 750,000 Attendees
Savannah really greens up the South with green fountains, green grits, and Southern hospitality merging with Irish comradery. Being the largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the South and one of the largest celebrations in the United States, Savannah kicks off their festivities with parades and entertainment that stretch through the weekend. The parade dates back to 1813 and with the exception of Civil War disturbances the parade has run for 200 years. With a long line of success like that, it’s no surprise that Savannah has such a successful celebration that continues to attract new attendees each year.
2 Boston, Massachusetts USA – 850,000 Attendees
Boston is the location of the first recorded St. Patrick’s Day parade dating back to 1737. And about 24% of the city's population have Irish descent, so it’s no surprised that Boston has one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in North America. This also makes Boston the most “Irish” city in the entire United States. There are parades, performers, dancers, and drinking, fun times for the kids, and this just skims the surface of how far out the city of Boston will go for the holiday.
1 New York City, New York USA – 2 Million Attendees
With how large the city of New York is, it shouldn’t be a big surprise that the Big Apple boasts one of the largest St. Patrick's day celebrations in the world. The first celebration in NYC dates back to 1762 and was planned by Irish soldiers in the British army. With over 150,000 participants in the parade alone, the Big Apple really does transform itself into a hub of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. What’s even more interesting is that all of the parade participants are on foot and there are no floats, cars, or balloons.