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All about St. Patrick’s Day


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St. Patrick’s Day — also known as the feast of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland — is a public holiday in Ireland, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Caribbean nation of Montserrat. But there are many more places around the world that "go green" in celebration of the March 17th holiday.

Celebrations are different now because of the pandemic, but let's see how St. Patrick's Day has usually been celebrated in the past.

From Ireland to New York City

St. Patrick's Day parade in New York

Photo by Steve and Sara Emry licensed CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

In the past, St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t a huge cause for celebration in Ireland. Families usually marked the holiday with a meal and little else. But all that changed thanks to American festivities.

Many American cities with large Irish populations celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in a big way. For instance, New York City holds the world’s oldest and largest parade each year for St. Paddy’s Day. The first parade took place more than 250 years ago. Today, about 250,000 marchers wind through New York City in a parade that lasts six hours long. About two million spectators line the streets and more than one million people watch on TV.

All this St. Patrick’s Day fun found its way back to Ireland. Since the 1970s, the holiday started to be celebrated there with parades and all things green.

Barcelona, Spain

Traditional Irish rowing boats

Photo by UrbanrulesBCN02 licensed CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

In Barcelona, Spain, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated each year with a regatta, or boat race. Traditional Irish rowing boats, called currachs (say: cur-ucks), are raced on the waterfront.

When the competition is over, it’s back to dry land for celebrations with Irish food, dancing, and music.

O’Neill, Nebraska

A plate of green eggs and ham

Photo by Ben Hussman licensed CC BY 2.0

Back in 2000, the residents of O’Neill, Nebraska, painted a massive shamrock, a type of three leaf clover that’s the symbol of Ireland, on the road at the main intersection in town as a way to celebrate their Irish heritage. When March 17th rolls around, the shamrock is given a fresh coat of green paint.

The festivities also include a special breakfast where green scrambled eggs are served.

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago River dyed green for St. Patrick's Day

Photo by Shutter Runner licensed CC BY-NC 2.0

Every year, the Chicago River in Chicago, Illinois, is dyed emerald green. The tradition has been going strong for over five decades.

Using a speedboat, a harmless vegetable dye is added into the river to get the perfect St. Paddy’s Day shade. The colour lasts about 12 hours before it fades away.

Outer space!

Chris Hadfield celebrates St. Patrick's Day on the International Space Station

Photo by NASA licensed CC BY-NC 2.0

In some cases, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are out of this world. That was definitely the case in 2011 when the holiday was celebrated on the International Space Station. An astronaut named Catherine Coleman played an Irish flute and a tin whistle while floating weightless in orbit.

And not to be outdone, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield also celebrated the day in 2013 by wearing green and taking photos of Ireland from space.