19 truly surprising places where the Irish national holiday, St. Patrick's Day, is celebrated annually.
This article first appeared in IrishCentral's sister publication Irish America magazine.
We’re familiar with the traditionally large-scale and internationally renowned St. Patrick’s Day parades – New York, Boston, Chicago, Dublin, and the like – but what about the other 190 countries? What about the other 47 U.S. states?
In addition to national landmarks, fountains, and even rivers (looking at you, Chicago) turning green in honor of Ireland’s patron saint, here’s your guide to the most exciting, least expected, and farthest flung St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
AROUND THE WORLD
This tiny Caribbean volcanic island is the only other country in the world – in addition to Ireland – for which St. Patrick’s Day is a public holiday, but not for the reason you might think. This March 17th marks the 247th anniversary of an unsuccessful slave revolt against the European whites who colonized it in the 17th century, seven out of ten of whom were Irish. Today, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated by a week-long festival of independence.
The central celebration is the Masquerade, where Montserratians dress in colorful hats resembling bishops miters, dance Irish jigs, and crack whips in mocking defiance of their one-time Irish masters. Montserratian historian Howard Fergus puts it this way: “We are celebrating the rise of the slave freedom fighters, but also the rash Catholic element in our history. They both have a place in our legacy, which is celebrated on the anniversary of the Saint’s death.” (Source: Janelle Oswald | The Voice)
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Though it’s often called “The Paris of South America,” the Argentinian capitol looks more like Dublin every March 17th.
As host city to the largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration in South America, Buenos Aires foregoes a parade in lieu of an annual street party in the city center, featuring music, dancing (including Celtic Argentina, the dance troupe profiled in Irish America magazine last year) and plenty of craic at Breoghans Brew pub on the corner of Bolivar and Estados Unidos. (Source: Wander Argentina)
First held in 1992, the Tokyo parade is the largest of several parades around Japan. It was began by Irish network Japan for the purpose of introducing Ireland to Japanese people and has evolved into a glorious mix of traditional Japanese stylized dress with Irish costumes (above). (Source: Irish Network Japan)
The Singapore River is dyed green, costumes are donned, and a Harley-Davidson convoy leads the pack at the Singapore St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the largest celebration in Southeast Asia.
The St. Patrick’s Society of Singapore (comprised mostly of ex-pats) also hosts an annual ball at the Shangri-la Hotel with free-flowing wine and beer, live music, prize drawings, and Irish dancing. (Source: Asia One)
More than 80,000 people show up for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Family Day in Sydney, making it the largest such event in the southern hemisphere, and the only event in the world outside of Ireland to be organized and funded with support from the Irish government. But though Sydney goes big for a day, on the other side of the country Perth commits for the whole week with a host of races, competitions, children’s activities, and a massive parade as the finale. (Source: Sydney St. Patrick’s Day Parade / St. Patrick’s Day Festival WA)
Auckland, New Zealand
Aukland holds the distinction of holding the first St. Patrick’s Day party, since midnight on March 17 reaches New Zealand’s largest city before anywhere else. It is also the farthest celebration away from Ireland, almost exactly the opposite end of the world at a massive 11,290 miles away from Dublin. Naturally, Auckland’s 1,076-foot Sky Tower is lit with the Irish Tricolor for the day. (Source: St. Patrick’s Festival Auckland)
The Gateway of India in Mumbai goes green for St. Patrick’s Day, and the Irish pubs around the country’s major cities stock up on Murphy’s stout. (Source: Times of India)
For the past decade, Boomtown Rats front man Bob Geldof has played a St. Patrick’s Day gig in Dubai’s Irish Village and this year is no different. “Last year, although the rain was ‘persistent’, we still managed to jam into the early hours courtesy of a makeshift stage and plenty of Irish spirit. So whatever the weather, this year is going to be a great craic as well,” Geldof said. (Source: Time Out Dubai)
Every year, Istanbul’s Irish Centre, a.k.a. The James Joyce Irish Pub, holds an Irish festival around St. Patrick’s Day. Just off one of Istanbul’s most notorious nightlife streets, the pub is the capital’s only Irish bar and features live dancing, music, an ample beer selection, and plenty of traditional Irish food – oh, also an attached boutique hotel, appropriately called the Istanbul Shamrock. (Source: Istanbul Trails)
Head to Zagreb’s Tvornica Kulture (Culture Factory) where the Orthodox Celts, one of the most popular Croatian trad bands, will be celebrating their 22-year anniversary for St. Patrick’s Day. Left: The Orthodox Celts in an undated (but still dated) photograph. (Source: Croatia Week)
The parade started in 1992 and has kept on growing. Even in years when it was canceled or moved, Muscovites still congregated on Novy Arbat, the Moscow main drag where it all began on the 17th. Marching bands, Cossack horsemen, and green beer are found in abundance. (Source: The Russia Store)
Every year the Norwegian Irish Society gathers on Jernbanetorget to have Norway’s largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Founded by the Oslo St. Patrick’s Day Association (above), mostly comprised of Irish ex-pats, in 2009, the parade has grown to an all-inclusive celebration of the Irish in Scandinavia. (Source: Norwegian Irish Society)
Cabo Roig, Spain
On the southern Costa Blanca in eastern Spain, this picturesque Spanish outpost plays host to the largest parade in Spain (Madrid is the close second). A favored destination of Irish vacationers, the fiesta lasts well into the night and spills onto the white sand beaches, long after the parade has ended. (Source: National Geographic)
For the 6 most surprising places to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the US, click through to read the rest of the article on IrishAmerica.com - you’ll be surprised!