14 Mar St. Patrick’s Day Traditions from Around the World
St. Patrick’s Day was originally a cultural and religious celebration, observing the death of Saint Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint. March 17th was officially declared a feast day in the early 1600s, and as the Irish spread around the world, so did their St. Patrick’s Day traditions.
Historically, the day was celebrated with parades and festivals, music and dance, food and drink, and ubiquitous green attire. But, as with all things, time has changed these traditions for many communities around the world.
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Chicago takes St. Patrick’s Day very seriously. Maybe that’s why the city was named the best place to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day in the US.
For over 50 years, at approximately 9 am, the city has famously dyed the Chicago River green in honor of The Emerald Isle. The river-dyeing is orchestrated by the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade, but if you’re wondering just how they achieve that bright green color, know that they are very protective of the dye formula. One parade organizer said that revealing the formula would be like “telling where the leprechaun hides its gold.”
Honorable mention: St. Patrick’s Day river-dyeing isn’t just for Chicagoans. San Antonio is also known for dyeing the water that runs through their famed river walk green. To make the tradition their own, they even moved their parade onto the water.
Auckland, New Zealand
Irish immigrants had a big impact on the culture of New Zealand, especially in the cities of Canterbury and Auckland.
Today, Auckland participates in the widespread tradition of lighting landmarks up in green to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. In 2019, landmarks including the Colosseum, The Sydney Opera House, and the Empire State Building will be lighting up green, but Auckland will be the first with their “Greening of Auckland” event. The city’s Sky Tower, Eden Park, Auckland Museum, and Auckland Harbour Bridge will all light up green on March 16th.
Known as the other Emerald Isle, Montserrat is a small island in the Caribbean. It’s also one of only a few places in the world that officially recognizes St. Patrick’s Day as a national holiday. For Montserratians, St. Patrick’s Day is marked by a week-long celebration, blending Irish, African, and Caribbean traditions.
The day also commemorates a failed slave uprising that happened on March 17, 1768. On St. Patrick’s Day, Montserratians pay homage to their ancestors, turning what was surely a horrific moment in history into a week of celebration and remembrance.
You’ve heard of St. Patrick’s Day parades, but have you heard of one specifically about Irish dogs? Every St. Patrick’s Day, the Tokyo Irish Setter Club members and their pups don their best green duds to march in the parade. Words really don’t do this event justice. Just watch the video instead.
New London, Wisconsin, United States
To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, the town of New London ceases to exist for an entire week. The town’s Shamrock Club, a group of residents dressed as leprechauns, changes all the highway signs to read “New Dublin” instead of “New London.” We’re not sure if this counts as defacing a road sign, but no one in New London – sorry New Dublin – seems to mind.
The town also hosts Wisconsin’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parade and an Irish Fest with food, drink, and a Céili (pronounced kay-lee)—a traditional Irish gathering for music and dancing.
In the village of Banwen, population 1,194, there is a stone commemorating the birthplace of St. Patrick. Remember, Banwen is NOT in Ireland. St. Patrick was actually born in Roman Britain, or what is now England and Wales. It’s believed that St. Patrick’s actions, not his birthplace, ultimately made him the patron saint of Ireland.
Though there’s no consensus as to where exactly within Roman Britain St. Patrick (originally named Maewyn Succat) was born, members of the Banwen & District History Club in Wales are eager to claim St. Patrick as a local Welshman.
Whether the memorial stone in Banwen marks St. Patrick’s actual birthplace or not, every March 17th there is a bagpipe processional through the tiny village in St. Patrick’s honor.
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