Happy St. Patrick’s Day, one and all! As shockingly American as this holiday is (though with approximately 32 million people of Irish ancestry in the U.S., maybe not so shocking,) it’s still a day to celebrate all things Irish—and not just here. Turns out, Ireland is so beloved (and those with Irish heritage so spread out…) that St. Patrick’s Day has traveled far abroad from its Celtic roots. Come explore some (we couldn’t possibly cover them all!) of the most surprising countries that put on their own St. Patrick’s Day celebrations (besides our own!)
There are only two countries in the world where St. Patrick’s Day is a public holiday—Ireland and the island of Montserrat! This mountainous Caribbean Island is technically a British Overseas territory and is home to a disproportionally large number of people of Irish heritage stemming back to the days of colonization. The celebration reflects this complicated history—St. Patrick’s Day in Montserrat is part of a ten-day-long festival of independence celebrating a failed slave rebellion and the island’s unique mixture of Irish and African ancestry. It’s one of the most unique St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the world!
Next, we travel to Singapore, the capital of which has the largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in Southeast Asia. Festivities include dying the Singapore River green (à la Chicago,) a full cavalcade of costumed celebrants, and, of all things, a Harley-Davidson convoy kicking off the affair. But that’s not all—the St. Patrick’s Society Singapore (made up largely of Irish ex-pats who have made the island city-state their home,) throws a lavish ball each year at Singapore’s luxurious Shangri-la Hotel. A far cry from green beer at your local pub!
But Singapore and Chicago aren’t the only places with a penchant for turning things green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day—just check out Mumbai’s Gateway of India around March 17th. The arch’s colorization isn’t the only nod to the Irish holiday—India loves a celebration, and as St. Paddy’s falls just around the Holi festival (a celebration of spring and love best known in the West for its playful spreading of colors) it’s an easy way to keep the festivities going! There’s an astounding number of Irish pubs and restaurants in Mumbai that are packed for the holiday, many of which host large events that are dotted throughout the city (including a parade or two!)
South America isn’t known for its parades, but rather its wild street parties, and St. Patrick’s Day is no exception! Buenos Aires, Argentina marks the day (which they call El Dia de San Patricio) with a celebration organized by the Argentina-Ireland Association and the Irish Embassy—which does include a parade, but also a street party full of costumed dancers and live music, as well as Irish pubs serving dark beer and Irish meals cooked in Argentinian fashion. Maybe all this excitement for Irish culture has something to with the fact that an Irish-born man, William Brown, founded the Argentinian Navy in 1814?
As a country, Japan has begun to take to St. Patrick’s Day in recent years, with at least 13 cities across the island hosting March events celebrating Irish culture and history (sorry, possibly 15!) The largest event (the “I Love Ireland” Festival in Yoyogi Park) happens, unsurprisingly, in Toyoko, followed by the largest parade in the same place—an event held by the Irish Network Japan. In recent years, these events have even repeatedly hosted different Irish governmental officials—like the Irish Minister for Culture in 2019. As the weather is rather mild in Japan in March (and St. Patrick’s Day coincides with the cherry blossoms blooming!), it’s become an affair with over 180,000 participants!
If Japan seems far afield from Ireland, get ready for this one: there’s a St. Patrick’s Day celebration held approximately 11,500 miles away, very literally the furthest point on the globe one can get from Ireland, in New Zealand! This is another place where many citizens claim Irish heritage (1 in 6!), and in honor of that a large parade is held in Auckland (and more around the country, like Wellington and Christchurch,) before the Auckland Sky Tower is lit up green for the night!
This is barely the tip of the shamrock! There’s more celebrations and St. Patrick’s Day traditions to discover from Brazil to Lithuania, from Paris to Egypt, not to mention all the incredible parades and parties North America has to offer. But however and wherever you’re celebrating Ireland today, we do hope you’ll take a minute to dance!
This post is part of a series. Read our last modern Ireland post, recommendations for St. Patrick’s Day children’s books, here. Check out the blog every Monday and Thursday for more posts about Irish history, dance culture, community news, and spotlights on our dancers, staff, and families—among other fun projects! And don’t forget to dance along with us on both Facebook and Instagram.
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