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20 May 2018
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St. Patrick's Day reaches around the world

Irish and the Irish-at-heart from Japan to Montserrat will raise a pint this weekend

Posted: Mar 17, 2013 5:47 AM ET

Last Updated: Mar 17, 2013 5:36 AM ET

One of the few things Newfoundland and Labrador has in common with the Caribbean island of Montserrat is a special fondness for St. Patrick's Day.

March 17 is not an official holiday in Canada — or in Australia, New Zealand, or even in the U.S. — where an excess of green clothing and drunken revelry is a tradition that predates the country itself. But people do get a day off in the Atlantic province, and on the tiny island in the Caribbean, where the date also marks the anniversary of Montserrat's 1768 slave revolt.

The revolt failed, but the dual significance of the date turned it into an official holiday, marked by celebrations that combine the Irish and African heritage of its 4,500 citizens. The week-long celebration includes steel drum bands, a special church service, a pub crawl and a “slave feast.” The island was settled by Irish refugees and is often called the “Emerald Island of the Caribbean.”

Likewise, Newfoundland has been called the most Irish place in the world outside of Ireland. According to the 2006 census, more than 20 per cent of its residents can trace their roots back to the land of shamrocks, leprechauns and the Guinness brewery.

Because St. Patrick’s Day lands on a Sunday this year, some people in the province will be off work on Monday. St. Patrick's Day is a recognized statutory holiday for some provincial public service workers.

The North American cities most famous for St. Pat’s celebrations are Boston, where the first parade was held in 1737, as well as New York, and Chicago — where the river is turned green with eco-friendly dye.

But March 17 also packs a punch in Savannah, Georgia. Its parade is second only to Boston’s — owing in part to the many Irish who immigrated there during the 1800s — and Brisbane, Australia, where week-long celebrations honour the country’s earliest settlers, many of which were Irish convicts.

Week-long celebrations have also caught on in Japan, where the theme of this year’s parade through Tokyo is “kizuna,” which means “bonds” or “connections.”

“It is our honour to celebrate this very special day,” said organizers at Irish Network Japan in a statement, noting that, thanks to time zones, theirs would be one of the first St. Patrick’s Day parades of 2013.

Closer to home, Sunday will see parades through cities including Toronto, Vancouver — and Montreal, where a parade has been held annually since 1824.

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