Officially March 17th commemorates St Patrick’s Day and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. St. Patrick was embraced as the Patron Saint of Ireland for his missionary work and the spiritual inspiration he left behind over 1,500 years ago. His spirit still resonates across all continents for more than 100+ million Irish worldwide with a celebration of parades and festivities on a day where “everyone’s Irish”.
Here is my bucket list of the top 10 places to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day:
New Zealand’s largest city hosts the world’s first St. Patrick’s Day party each year. Since Ireland-to-Auckland emigration began in the 1840s and continues today, there’s palpable pride in the city’s Irish heritage. Celebrations include a parade, a fleadh (Irish dance groups and local bands), lighting the 1,076-foot Sky Tower green, and the Emerald Ball.
Known as the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean, Montserrat is the only country outside Ireland where St. Patrick’s Day is a public holiday. Montserrat’s Irish heritage dates back to the 17th century when the island became a haven for Irish Catholics who were persecuted on other Caribbean islands by the reach of Cromwell. The week-long St. Patrick’s Festival provides a rich mix of Irish and African heritage.
It should be no surprise that there are so many American cities on the list.
Out of a total U.S. population of 309 million, 11% or 35 million Americans list their heritage as Irish making Irish-Americans the second largest group of Americans based on nationality or ancestry. This is 7x the population of Ireland itself. *2010 Census Data.
First Parade: 1869
Pittsburgh has one of the highest percentage of its population identifying as Irish. It has risen in the ranks as a favorite to celebrate due to its great access to bars, a thriving St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and a staggering amount of St. Patrick’s Day hype.
First Parade: 1824
Savannah is home to the second largest parade in the world on St. Patrick’s Day, and it seems all of Georgia shows up for the party with over 750,000 spectators. This is multiple day party that kicks off with the “dyeing of the fountains” around Savannah. It has also become tradition for women spectators to kiss the Armed Forces Units and other military organization’s male members.
First Parade: 1762
New York’s massive St Patrick’s Day Parade with takes place down the same route down 5th Avenue as it did in 1762. The 200,000 marchers include Irish kilts, bagpipes, step dancer and marching bands without a float in sight. With over 2 million attendees lining the streets, this is a huge event.
First Parade: 1737
The South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade is known as one of the largest in the country with over 1,000,000 attendees. Boston boasts the largest percentage of its population identifying as Irish.
First Parade: 1843
Chicago was built largely by Irish immigrants and the Irish pride runs strong. In Chicago every year, the Plumbers Local 130 union dyes the river “Kelly” green at 9:15am which will last about five hours. The best place to see the dyeing is the intersection of Michigan Ave, Wacker Drive and the river. Following the greening of the river is an over-the-top St. Patrick’s Day Parade, now in its 60th year, featuring everything from Clydesdales to Irish dance troupes, and ending with an all-out street party.
Ending the list heading back to where it all started… IRELAND
Down Cathedral, outside of Belfast, is the final resting of St. Patrick. Celebrations in the Northern Ireland city start off with a parade that ends in a free concert at Custom House Square. Performers include traditional music, Irish singers and Highland dancers.
Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Festival is a four-day celebration of Irish culture including concerts, floats, costumes and craic (good fun). The signature March 17 parade will be lined with 500,000 revelers starting at Parnell Square, continuing past Trinity College to the end point near St. Patrick’s Cathedral.