If there's one holiday that can unite a nation, it's St. Paddy's Day. Though the most culturally inspired celebration, whether French, Australian, Canadian or American, on one day in March, we all can proclaim ourselves "Irish for a day." While there are too many Guinness-guzzling celebrations and green-speckled parade routes to list, we've highlighted the biggest and most anticipated festivals and events around the world. Discover how the Italians honor the patron saint, how Denmark uses themed competition to support charity and how 150,000 New York City residents march in style up Manhattan's Fifth Avenue. Additionally, for the best references and resources we've found, or to locate a celebration or pub in your area, see our list of links below.
Chicago, Illinois: Dyeing the River Green
Chicago is famous for dyeing the Chicago River green on the day of the St. Patrick's Day parade, the Saturday before the holiday (unless the holiday itself falls on a Saturday). The tradition began in 1962, when a pipe fitters union-with the permission of the mayor-poured a hundred pounds of green vegetable dye into the river. (On the job, the workers often use colored dyes to track illegal sewage dumping.) Today only 40 pounds of dye are used, enough to turn the river an emerald shade for several hours of celebration.
Dublin, Ohio: The Naming of the Grand Leprechaun
Beginning in 1984, every St. Patrick's Day the Dublin City Council nominates a Grand Leprechaun-someone who has made exemplary community service contributions, volunteer efforts, etc.-to lead the parade that year. Visit dublin.oh.us to read the requirements for becoming a Grand Leprechaun, and the list of past Grand Leprechauns.
New London, Wisconsin: Renaming the Town
The legendary festivities begin each March, when Leprechauns of the local Shamrock Club, a group based in New London, Wisconsin, that meets monthly to plan the town's St. Patrick's Day festivities, change the town's name to "New Dublin" for the week. Their motto? "New Dublin is to the Irish what Sturgis is to a biker!" Following the renaming is a night of Irish entertainment including caroling, an old-fashioned Irish wake, an Irish ceili (traditional dance), topped off with the week's Grand Parade and Irish Fest. Visit newdublin.com for details.
New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade
On March 17, 2009, the 248th St. Patrick's Day parade will march up Fifth Avenue from 44th Street to 86th. It is undeniably one of the biggest parades held in the city, competing with the nationally televised Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. According to saintpatricksdayparade.com, this year, the parade will be viewed from Saint Patrick's Cathedral by His Eminence Cardinal Edward Egan, Archbishop of New York. Fun facts: Originally, Irish societies joined together at their respective meeting places and moved in a procession toward Old Saint Patrick's Cathedral, St. James Church or one of the many other Roman Catholic churches in the city, but as the years passed, the parade grew. Though no floats are used, you can find approximately 150,000 marchers walking north through Manhattan sporting green clothing and a happy, if perhaps slightly beer-induced, smile.
Savannah, Georgia: Historic River Street
In addition to the Savannah St. Patrick's Day parade, which is said to attract nearly 400,000 people, the Savannah Waterfront Association runs an annual celebration on historic River Street reminiscent of Mardi Gras. The parade travels through the park, where the traditional "dyeing of the fountains" occurs several days before. Usual participants include local Armed Forces units, cadets from the Benedictine Military School, and other local organizations-and by tradition, women spectators are known to kiss them! The 185th edition of the parade will be held on Tuesday March 17 beginning at 10:15 a.m.
Boston, Massachusetts: St. Patrick's Day
Boston's Charitable Irish Society held America's first St. Patrick's Day celebration in 1737 and the city continues to be one of the country's destinations of choice for the holiday-the parade alone attracts over 600,000 people. The city has several events planned in the weeks leading up to the main event, including comedy acts, the Harpoon St. Patrick's Festival (featuring a row of food vendors selling traditional Irish food), and more! Visit about.com for details.
Tokyo, Japan: St. Patrick's Day Parade
The 18th St. Patrick's Day Parade in Tokyo, Japan, will take place on Sunday March 15, 2009. The tradition started in 1992 to introduce Japanese people to Irish culture. This year, the "sub-theme" of the parade is "Celt." It's estimated that about 2,000 participants march down fashionable Omote Sando Avenue-which is lined for the occasion by Irish and Japanese flags-cheered on by as many as 7,000 spectators. The Irish Ambassador to Japan leads the kilt-wearing, bagpipe-playing participants. For a list of more St. Paddy's Day events around Japan, visit st-patricks-day.com.
Dublin, Ireland: St. Patrick's Festival
In 1995, Ireland took back its holiday! The Irish government, which officially established the festival in November of that year, had a major goal in mind: to make the festival rank among the best celebrations in the world. The event is also intended to generate creativity and excitement throughout Ireland and to project, internationally, an accurate image of Ireland as a "creative, professional and sophisticated country with wide appeal," according to the event's website. The now six-day festival takes 18 months of planning and a full staff to manage a calendar of activities, which you can find here.
From Friday March 6, 2009, through Saturday March 21, 2009 (with a number of additional events from February through April), Manchester will celebrate its 14th Irish Festival-a two-week celebration featuring 200 events at 32 venues throughout Greater Manchester. Don't miss the festival highlights, which include the "Young, Gifted & Green" show, the annual parade, and the "feast day" on the holiday itself. Star appearances include Declan Nearney, Brendan Shine, Riverdance, Brendan O'Carroll, Ed Byrne, James Cannon (son of The Dubliners' Sean Cannon) and the Sinners, Shkayla and Toss the Feathers. Visit here for more details.Bologna, Italy: Irlanda in Festa
From Friday March 13 to Tuesday March 17, Italy's St. Patrick's Day festival offers two live stages, numerous Irish and Italian acts, literary and film events with an Irish theme, plus Ireland vs. Italy sporting events, including darts and boxing. The star-clad guest list includes Bandabardó, the Modena City Ramblers, The Committments and more. The five-day event has become such a hit that it even has its own MySpace page. Visit the official page for more details!
Copenhagen, Denmark: Three-Legged Charity Race
In Copenhagen, the annual three-legged pub crawl/charity race is a much-anticipated event. Participants are to drink a half-pint of Carlsberg in each of the 6 pubs the race passes through-a nonalcoholic beverage, Saftevand, will be arranged for underage racers. This year, all proceeds will be donated to the Children's Cancer Ward at Rigs Hospital. The race is in addition to the many events taking place in Denmark surrounding St. Patrick's Day. Visit the official site for details.
Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Parade Queen & Court
The selection of a St. Patrick's Day queen surrounds Montreal's intense celebration of the holiday, organized by the United Irish Societies of Montreal and led by the Grand Marshall. The 185th St. Patrick's Day parade will take place on St. Catherine Street, leaving from the corner of Du Fort Street at noon and heading east as far as Place des Arts. The Queen's pageant, which is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Irish Culture in Montreal, is held every year at the city's Delta Centre-Ville hotel. Click here for the history and list of past Queens, and here for tips to guarantee a warm, fun time at the parade.